The "disaffected deviationists"
Thus far J. I. Packer, in his book The Quest for Godliness, has described the “restless experientialists” and the “entrenched intellectualists.” He turns finally to the third group whom he calls “disaffected deviationists.”
These are those who used to view themselves as evangelicals
“but who have become disillusioned about the evangelical point of view and have turned their back on it, feeling that it let them down. Some leave it for intellectual reasons, judging that what was taught them was so simplistic as to stifle their minds and so unrealistic and out of touch with facts as to be really if unintentionally dishonest. Others leave because they were led to expect that as Christians they would enjoy health, wealth, trouble-free circumstances, immunity from relational hurts, betrayals, and failures, and from making mistakes and bad decisions; in short, a flowerly bed of ease on which they would be carried happily to heaven – and these great expectations were in due course refuted by events. Hurt and angry, feeling themselves victims of a confidence trick, they now accuse the evangelicalism they knew of having failed and fooled them, and resentfully give it up; it is a mercy if they do not therewith similarly accuse and abandon God himself” (32-33).
The Puritans would remind them of the mystery of God, that he can never be fully comprehended or placed in our conceptual box, that his dealings are inscrutable. They remind us also of the love of God, as seen in the cross of Calvary. They point to the salvation of God that began with our new life in Christ and will lead us through this world into eternal glory. They tell us about spiritual conflict with the world, flesh, and the devil, and also about the protection of God whereby he overrules and sanctifies the conflict; and about the glory of God which it becomes our privilege to make known by proving his suffiency in all things and at all times.
Of course, all such categorizing of Christians can be a bit too tidy. No one fits the mold perfectly. But it would be spiritually healthy for all of us to examine our lives and inclinations in the light of Packer’s wisdom.