What is apostasy?
- a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc.
- late 14c., “renunciation, abandonment or neglect of established religion,” from Late Latin apostasia, from later Greek apostasia for earlier apostasis “revolt, defection,” literally “a standing off,” from apostanai “to stand away” (see apostate (n.)). General (non-religious) sense “abandonment of what one has professed” is attested from 1570s.
This word brings up others like heresy which is considered by some to be synonymous. It is incorrect to do so.
I would disagree with dictionary.com’s use of the word “total” as apostates (those in apostasy) often reject only portions of the faith though there are those who step away entirely. However, heresy is often included as they will turn around and add or alter things that were previously not there. It is possible to be just apostate as it is possible to be just a heretic (though often heretics are also apostate).
To be clear, terms like apostasy and heresy are used towards those who previously espoused the faith. These are not terms applied to those who never were part of the faith. Also, just because someone can be described as being in apostasy, it doesn’t mean they’ll always be so. There are various early church figures that others have described as apostate based upon a certain period in that individual’s life but in later life could easily be described as orthodox.
It is natural to be bitter towards those who have misrepresented the faith, but we must be willing to genuinely accept them as fellow believers when it is clear they have turned from their wrong.