John 6:66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
I read a book from Dr. John Marriott, Going, Going, Gone – Why Believers Lose Their Faith and Suggestions for Preventing It. (He has also published: The Anatomy of Deconversion, and he speaks on the topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMkGl4CEW-Q). John was actually once an NCAA Division I Triple Jumper, and he shares the story of meeting his hero, triple jump world record holder Jonathan Edwards.
In the spring of 1996, Marriott was going through an extremely frustrating period in college athletics and surprisingly, one day Jonathan Edwards was at the same track in Florida and Marriott even got a chance to have lunch with Edwards. Marriott said that at this time in his life, next to Jesus, Edwards was his greatest hero. Not only had Edwards been the first in history to break the 60-foot triple jump barrier (18.29m), but he was also a committed and well-respected Christian. “One story I recall reading told about how Edwards was far more comfortable in the athlete’s village playing his guitar and leading worship choruses for the other Christian athletes than speaking to reporters about his athletic accomplishments.”, says Marriott.
So, to Marriott it was an utter shock to hear in 2007 that Edwards had turned away from Christ. “I just stopped believing in God”, said Edwards. This raised very difficult questions for Marriott, including the obvious: “how could someone who was so dedicated to Christ lose his faith?” Marriott’s book goes on to look at the reasons why people lose their faith and what we can do to prevent it.
Marriott interviewed many people who had turned away from Christianity and he felt that their “deconversions” could generally be tied to two factors: intellectual doubts and emotional hurts. Those who left their faith due to intellectual doubts often came from families and church traditions which did not encourage critical thinking and when these Christians faced difficult questions such as the inerrancy of scripture, or questions of science, they faced a crisis of faith which ultimately drove them from their Christian beliefs. Others Marriott had interviewed explained that they had lost their faith due to emotional hurts caused by the church. They explained that their experiences with judgemental and unloving leaders and Christians caused them to question their faith and God himself. Marriott admits that there is no clear answer as to why some people lose their faith, while others do not, even in the same circumstances, but it is clear that each person is a complex social being who makes personal decisions.
I have found that it is important to consider if your relationship is with Christ or with other Christians. If it is the latter, you may be setting yourself up for a crisis of faith because other Christians will certainly let you down. If you have been sheltered from critical thinking, be careful that you are firmly planted and prepared for difficult questions. While you may not have all the answers, nor do atheists or agnostics. In fact, I’d argue many more difficult questions arise if you choose to walk without the Lord. Walk humbly, seek out answers and pray diligently that God may increase your faith. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13).