I have read several statements by various people recently claiming to "lose" their Christian faith. They say things like, "no one has been asking the hard questions for 2,000 years", or that science has refuted Christianity. Or that the problem of suffering, or the existence of Hell, are unsolvable issues that Christian leaders have avoided addressing.
I ask myself, what is going on here?
Did anyone in 25 years disciple them, at any point, ever, about the reasons why we believe in Christ? It sounds like no one did.
Could these apostasies and semi-apostasies be the fruit of mental laziness? In other words, they never exerted effort to seek out and find writers and thinkers like:
Corrie ten Boom,
J. Gresham Machen,
or Francis Schaeffer?
There is apologetics all over the Internet. If you Googler "Christian evidences", the selections spill all over you.
Do the apostates sincerely believe, in 2,000 years of Christianity, that literally no one has wrestled with, and answered, hard questions? It sounds insincere when they say this, considering how obviously untrue it is. It's a little like saying no one has ever seriously wrestled with the meaning of life.
In a few cases I have read, it seemed like someone was choosing a friend over Scripture. Like, they had a homosexual friend, so they decided the Bible doesn't say that homosexuality is sinful, or that it *does* say that and therefore isn't true. But that isn't valid thinking. The question of, "Is Christianity true?" isn't answered by whether my friend likes it.
My gut instinct is to think that
(a) there are some big ministries who do little or nothing to teach the fundamentals of the faith.
(b) Morality + music with a little Jesus thrown in isn't the Gospel, but there are churches where that's what's happening.
(c) We've been letting baby Christians, or false converts, get into positions of public worship & preaching.
People are fascinated by the phenomenon of tongues-speaking. It is important to consult the New Testament, in order to understand what tongues was, and what the miracles meant. Begin first in the book of Acts. Tongues-speaking is described happening three times, over approximately thirty years.
We learn that this miracle of tongues-speaking was predicted by the prophet Joel, in the second chapter of his book. Joel used the word "prophesy", but Peter applies it to the tongues miracle (Acts 2:14-17). This lets us know that these tongues were a direct product of God's prophetic power. These tongues did not originate from inside the speakers, just as the Old Testament prophets' predictions of the future did not originate from them. The Spirit was speaking through them.
We also learn that tongues-speaking was the miraculous, Spirit-inspired ability to pray or sing in a real language foreign to the speaker. Luke says that the 120 prayed and spoke in "languages" (Acts 2:4), which is the meaning of the Greek word glossa. The 120 spoke actual languages, which the crowd understood (Acts 2:7-11). In this instance, no spiritual gift of interpretation was needed. The various members of the crowd simply understood whatever language or dialect was being uttered.
Peter said this miracle was a sign of Christ's ascension (Acts 2:33). Christ on His throne intended to reach out to all language-groups of the world, using all their languages. There is no one language by which every Bible must be translated, or in which the Gospel must be preached. So, Peter tied the miracle as a sign one part of Christ's redeeming work.
It is important to notice that Peter does not promise the crowd the ability to pray in tongues. If they receive Jesus as Savior, God will give them all the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). But the Giver isn't the same thing as His gifts. If any in that crowd of 3,000 who believed ever did pray in tongues, we have no record of it. (In the same way, there is no record of the Samaritan Christians from Acts 8 praying in tongues). Maybe they did, but we don't know because Luke is silent about it.
God gives tongues as a sign a second time, to show the apostles that God accepted Gentiles through Christ. This was how Peter interpreted the miracle God gave Cornelius and his family (Acts 10:44-46, 11:15-18). This was an important sign, to break down the hesitancy Jewish believers in Jesus felt toward Gentile converts.
The third and last case of tongues as a sign happens in Acts 19. Paul meets twelve former followers of John the Baptist. We don't know where they had been all those years, but they were uninformed about Christ. Paul brought them up to date on the person and work of Christ Jesus. He asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit, but they were unfamiliar with this idea. After baptizing them in Christ's name, Paul laid his hands on them and they were filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues (19:5-6).
This was a sign of Paul's true apostleship. Years before, a Samaritan named Simon noticed that apostles had the authority to confer the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:18), and tried to buy it. Peter rebuked him sharply. This was not something that just anyone could do, let alone buy! Paul's ability to do this was another proof that he was a true apostle of Christ. Paul's apostleship was often attacked, but this incident supported his God-given authority.
So: the three recorded instances of tongues-speaking in Acts were three signs. The first, a sign of Christ's ascension. The second, a sign of Gentile acceptability to God. The third, a sign of special apostolic authority.
Each of these signs were tied to three specific, unchanging historical facts in God's plan of redemption. For this reason, we should not teach these Acts incidents as timeless, universal examples. These are not examples of what all Christians everywhere should experience. That would be a misunderstanding of the miracles' purposes.
These were the signs of tongues. There is more to be learned about the spiritual gift of tongues (which, based on details of the chapter, might be a different phenomenon) from 1st Corinthians 14. Those principles would be more directly applicable to all Christians.
In Acts 22, the apostle Paul recounted the story of his Christian conversion. He told how the risen Christ sent a devout Jewish believer, Ananaias, who laid hands on him and said, "Brother Saul, Get up and be baptized, washing away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (v. 16).
What did Ananias mean?
Baptism symbolizes God in His mercy washing away our sins, based on Christ's redeeming death. The key to unlock Ananias' words is in the four word phrase, "Calling on His name." That phrase explains the preceding phrase, "washing away your sins."
According to Romans chapter 10, we call on Christ's name by putting our trust in Him. Romans 10:11-13 says, "Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”"
Paul says in this same paragraph that faith alone is sufficient for justification -- "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified" (v.10). Justification is when God not only forgives us of our sins, but credits us with Christ's perfect righteousness in place of our sin-spotted, totally-inadequate righteousness.
Christ, in Matthew 10, said that any who confess Him before others, He will confess that person before the Father (Matthew 10:32). Paul in Romans 10 is repeating Christ's confession promise.
Confession of Christ with the mouth is the result of justifying faith in the heart, because "A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." (Luke 6:44-45).
Justifying faith in the heart and saving confession of Christ with the mouth are two sides of one coin. The first (sincere heart-faith in Christ) always causes the second (verbal confession of Christ). Their relationship is that of cause and effect. We should be careful not to sever the connection between these two things. Also, confession is not the same thing as prayer.
Baptism is the Christian ceremony of verbal faith confession, and it was the ancient church's custom (unlike today) to baptize immediately, so that a person's baptism happened as near in time to their faith as possible. So, we can understand why the Bible associates baptism with salvation.
However, we must also take into account the total testimony of Scripture about salvation, to understand that baptism doesn't cause salvation, and is not its own separate condition of salvation.
The Bible gives testimony of thousands of years of sinners saved by grace, either without baptism or prior to it. People during the Old Testament times were saved the same way people today are -- as a free gift of God, received simply by trusting in the Lord's Gospel promise, apart from the sacraments. The standard of this was Abraham, in Genesis 15. Paul, in the first few verses of Romans 4, said that Abraham's salvation is our timeless example of how anyone is saved.
The thief on the cross, who confessed Christ to Christ, was saved without being baptized (Luke 23:42-43). God gave Cornelius the centurion the blessed Holy Spirit before Cornelius was baptized (Acts 10). Examples like these show God saving people without or before baptism.
The Bible closely links baptism with salvation, but not in a cause-and-effect sense. True faith comes out in the form of confession, and baptism is the ordained ordinance of confession. But verbal confessions can be false. We assume Judas Iscariot made a verbal confession of faith in Christ at some point in his life. But we know he was a child of the devil. A baptism can present a false picture. We know people who were baptized, sometimes when they were children, but then they truly came to Christ later in life.
Faith in Christ alone is sufficient to save. The Bible links baptism to salvation because baptism is the ceremony of confession. But baptism only saves, not from water coming on the body, but in the sense of it being a method of confession by which a believing person responds back to God, springing out of their grace-cleansed conscience, through Christ's resurrection (1 Peter 3:21).