Are There Any Real Ex-Christians?

[The above question came up in the comments section today. The following, adapted from one of my old blog posts, looks at Eric Hovind's use of it in debates with ex-believers.]

Eric Hovind uses the “you were never a real Christian” strategy to great effect, as can be seen HERE.

Hovind defines a Christian as someone who has a personal relationship with Christ. Then, when anyone claims to be an ex-Christian, he asks them if they ever had such a relationship. The ex-Christian, of course, cannot claim to have done so — for if he no longer believes in Christ, he cannot believe it was ever a genuine relationship. At best, he can say that, at one time, he thought he had such a relationship — at which point Hovind says something like, “See, you never were an actual Christian!”

But of course, when an atheist says “I used to be a Christian” — or when anyone not professing to be one uses the term “Christian,” for that matter — what he means is not “someone who has a personal relationship with Christ,” but at most “someone who believes that they have a personal relationship with Christ.” So anyone who doesn't accept Christianity cannot accept Hovind's definition of it — not if they want to continue using the term meaningfully.

Suppose, though, that one does go along with Hovind's definition. Well, in that case, then, there are no Christians — not unless the people who call themselves Christian are actually right! All the atheist needs to say in this case is, “Okay, if you go by that definition, I was never a Christian — but only because there never has been a Christian, including you!”

There is another problem with Hovind's argument, though. Hovind claims that “if you say, I thought I [had a relationship with Christ], but I didn't, then… you never were a Christian.”

But, purely as a matter of logic, that doesn't follow. If you go by his definition and the Christians are right, then the atheist who says “I used to be a Christian” could be correct! For if Christ does exist and people have relationships with him, then it could be that the atheist was one such person. The fact that he now no longer believes that the relationship was real does not prove it wasn't.

Hovind, then, is wrong about everything on this question!