Question: I have a friend who claims to be "de-converted"—that is, he has vocally abandoned Christianity. Are there any compelling arguments that could bring him back?
Answer: I’ve never had much success in reasoning a person into the family of God even though salvation is entirely reasonable. It’s a point-by-point head-trip to the gates of eternity. But it is not only a head trip. It requires faith—faith on a number of levels.
I believe "faith in God" to be too general a term, because we saved people have faith in a number of things, like the vhe veracity of God’s word and the revelation of God himself—that he is consistent and that he never wavers from accomplishing his promises. We must have faith that the person of Jesus Christ walked this earth, and that his sacrifice (alone) is sufficient to cover every sin ever committed—past, present, and future, and by every person who ever lived—past, present, and future.
I believe (have faith in) the Bible for two main reasons. First, the only system that makes any logical sense to me needs a God at the helm, and such a God would definitely leave us instructions. Second, in forty-four years of walking with the Lord, he has proven himself at every turn, and every day his written word stands stronger in both my mind and my heart. Detractors would say of these, “Well, whatever works for you, that’s great. But I don’t need God to (fill in the blank).” They’d be half right, of course. It does work for me…but they are in denial of their need for God.
It looks as if you’ve found an interesting audience with that “de-converted” person, but let's use the term de-converted advisedly because it can never actually happen. Here are the strongest possibilities that explain his situation. First, he was never really saved, and merely found his default philosophy. Second, he actually is saved but cannot bear the embarrassment of Christ. He has folded to the world’s pressure…and is trying earnestly to shed the Savior! If that’s true, boy…is he in for a ride! Atheism is harder to support than Christianity.
Atheism is merely one of many philosophical positions that rail against the biblically revealed God. An atheist believes that no God exists…but one cannot prove non-existence. To prove that no God exists, one would have to search for God in every picoliter of the universe, in every theoretical dimension, and throughout all possible time. Additionally, since God is infinite he can never be defined, and therefore can never be exhaustively investigated with mortal intelligence. Since atheism can never be verified as a true condition, to believe it requires faith—faith in the improvable! Here is what God says of such people.
“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.” (Psalm 14:1, ESV)
And here is the process. They suppressed the empirical. They ignored God's revelation outright. They dishonored him, became futile in their thinking and dark in their hearts. So God (who is no bully) let them live the lives of their choosing.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”
(Romans 1:18–25, ESV)
By contrast Christianity is eminently provable. In fact, we invite non-believers to investigate the person of Jesus Christ, his teachings, and his historical veracity. We invite people to test the Scriptures to see if they’ve been transmitted through the ages accurately, and to see if they record a correct history. We invite people to investigate a unique fact of history—the one which, if they proved as false, would cause Christianity to evaporate: The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
There! I’ve thrown down the gauntlet. God requires faith; we cannot escape that (Heb. 11:6). But a Christian’s faith is supported by fact, whereas an atheist’s faith is not only 100% speculative, but it flies in the face of some pretty obvious extra-biblical evidence which supports the existence of God (Rom. 1:17-23). Unfortunately for the life-long atheist, he shall have his ultimate proof at death, and he’ll be stuck with that proof and its necessary outfall, eternity without God—an everlasting hell.
When it comes to salvation, God only gives people what they want. He woos—but he does not force humans into a relationship with him (John 6:44, Acts 7:51b). Those who respond to his call have decided that they want to be with God, and they will spend eternity with him. But those who decide to refuse his advances while here on earth will not have it forced upon them in eternity. That would be (sort-of) okay if physical death were the end of things...but it's not! Everlastingness is not an option! People never cease to exist. With that in view I pray that all people will head God's call, because forever is a long long time.