A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away? (p. 141).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Lewis speaks in two categories: (1) faith lost to a superiorly-reasoned faith-system; and (2) faith lost to starvation of thought. I agree with Lewis that many more Christians surrender their faith to lack of thinking about it than lost their faith to thinking about Christianity and finding it wanting.
But I would add two more categories to the discussion:
(3) Faith lost to a level of pain that defies rationality; and
(4) Faith lost to a life of sin that made faith too inconvenient.
While I won’t guess at percentages or order, I will suggest that option #1 is the least frequent reason people walk away from the Christian faith.
Faith Lost to Pain: Many Christians face pain as if it were a riddle to be solved. When this approach is taken, then every lesson learned, facet of character refined, or opportunity availed is placed in a balance against every ounce of pain felt, each tear cried, and opportunity lost.
The “game” of faith is to find enough good things to outweigh the bad. “Faith,” in this system, requires renaming enough bad things good to make the equation work in God’s favor. When this game becomes too painful, many Christians abandon their faith in order to stop torturing their own souls.
This is a bad game that no Christian should force themselves to play in order to justify God. Even when you “win” this game it most often does not stop the pain. The Bible, nor the theology of Scripture, was meant to be this kind of divine encyclopedia that gives answers to each question of suffering.
Rather the Bible is a divine story book that is able to give meaning to painful events – like a good movie provides a redemptive meaning to a painful scene. The pain of the scene remains, but it is understood in light of something better.
Faith Lost to Sin: Other Christians find something forbidden by their faith that brings them pleasure. Their sin makes them feel good and they are faced with a choice: (a) leave my sin and mourn its pleasure; (b) continue in sin and feel the guilt of my faith; or (c) leave my faith and rationalize my choice.
In these cases it may look like someone reasoned their way out of faith. But it is clearly not reason that is driving the decision-making process. This is the equivalent of adulterers who convince themselves that their spouse is unloving because if their spouse knew the truth they’d ask the adulterer to leave their lover – clearly reason being driven by desire.
This reveals that faith is a relationship more than a system of thought. Christianity is Someone who is rejected, not something that is forsaken. When someone becomes a Christian he/she proclaims Christ as being their only hope for life and better than anything life without Him has to offer. When someone leaves the Christian faith for sin they are not experiencing an intellectual quandary but a divorce.