Can Christians become apostate (to fall away or turn away from something, in our case the Christian faith)? I think without a doubt they can. In Paul’s letter to Timothy he explains that those whom Timothy is to teach will eventually “turn away” from the truth and “turn aside” (“to turn out of the course”) to myths (4:4). He doesn’t clarify if these people are believers or not, which leads me to believe that they are both believers and non-believers. In the flow of the letter it seems that those who turn away are those who at one time heard, understood and accepted the sound teaching that was being offered. Through some undisclosed turn of events in the passing of time they eventually were to come to the point that they would no longer listen. They will want a different message.
Being Calvinistic myself, I realize that this will be a touchy subject considering the “P” in TULIP, namely the perseverance of the saints. I’m sure that it will become obvious that I do not hold to the classic view of perseverance, but instead I hold to what Dr. Andy Woods (College of Biblical Studies, Houston, TX) has termed, “the preservation of the saints” since it holds more closely to the teaching of Scripture (Eph. 1:5, 13).
It is indeed a sad fact that this truth has not been taught. In particular, Hebrews 6:4-9 addresses this topic. The passage is dealing with believers (Jewish believers in particular) who are on the verge of returning to the Levitical system and in doing so would become apostate. The context makes this clear. First are the descriptions of the hypothetical person in vv. 4-5. 1.) Enlightened – spiritually the word means exactly what is said; it is one who has been spiritually enlightened or enlightened by the Holy Spirit to the things of God (Eph. 1:18). 2.) Tasted – in this context is not tasting as in food, but “to have perception of, experience” the “heavenly gift” meaning either salvation or the Holy Spirit (since He is mentioned at the end I assume tasting the Holy Spirit). 3.) Made partakers – “made” is the same word as “become” and is in the passive voice – it is something that has been done to or for the person. Partaker – “partner, companion, sharing in”. Again, the context is that the hypothetical person is one who has been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, has tasted (experienced or has insight to) the heavenly gift (salvation or Holy Spirit) and has become a companion in or made to share in the Holy Spirit. Without a doubt that is a saved person. Verse 6 states that if the hypothetical person has “fallen away” (Gr. “to apostasize,” “to abandon,” “to make a mistake”). The example given in verses 7-8 refers to the ground having received rain is worthless if it yields thorns and thistles and is on the verge of being cursed. Ultimately it will end up being burned.
If we were to continue in an examination of the book of Hebrews we eventually come to chapter 12 where the writer of Hebrews explains that what the readers were going through was actually an act of God’s discipline that He meets out on His children “for our good” (12:10). The writer uses the idea of God’s discipline to encourage them to hold the course and not turn back to the Levitical system of worship and closes the section with verse 11, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
In all, the message that the writer is giving is an encouragement not to “fall away” from THE faith (Christian teaching, biblical truth) because of the tribulation they were going through. Instead they were to view it for what it was, a tool of God for their (our) good that has as its goal the production of “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” in those who trust in Christ Jesus.
Can Christians become apostate? I say that Scripture teaches that we can.
I pray this helps.