Backslide (in Pr 14:14, סוּג, sug, to go back; in Ho 4:16, סָרִר, salar' to be refractory; elsewhere in the O.T. שׁוּב, shub, to return; in Heb 10:39, ὑποστέλλω, to "draw back"). SEE APOSTASY.
1. This term popularly denotes a falling off or defection in matters of religion; an apostasy, Ac 21:21; 2Th 2:3; 1Ti 4:1. This may be either partial or complete; partial, when it is in the heart, as Pr 14:14; complete, as that described in Heb 6:4, etc.; 10:6, etc. On the latter passage Chrysostom observes: "When a house has a strong foundation, suppose an arch fall, some of the beams break, or a wall decline, while the foundation is good, these breaches may be repaired; so in religion, while a person maintains the true doctrines, and remains on the firm rock, though he fall, true repentance may restore him to the favor and image of God: but as in a house, when the foundation is bad, nothing can save the building from ruin; so, when heretical doctrines are admitted for a foundation, nothing can save the professor from destruction." It is important, in interpreting these passages, to keep it steadfastly in mind that the apostasy they speak of is not only moral, but doctrinal. SEE FALLING AWAY.
2. It is also used less accurately of a loss of fervor in religious feeling and of zeal in religious duty. In this sense it should be called partial backsliding, which must be distinguished from hypocrisy, as the former may exist where there are good intentions on the whole; but the latter is a studied profession of appearing to be what we are not. The causes of backsliding are — the cares of the world; improper connections; inattention to secret or closet duties; self-conceit and dependence; indulgence; listening to and parleying with temptations. A backslidden state is manifested by indifference to prayer and self-examination; trifling or unprofitable conversation; neglect of public ordinances; shunning the people of God; associating with the world; thinking lightly of sin; neglect of the Bible; and often by gross immorality. The consequences of this awful state are — loss of character; loss of comfort; loss of usefulness; and loss of a well-grounded hope of future happiness. To avoid this state, or recover from it, we should beware of the first appearance of sin; be much in prayer; attend the ordinances; and unite with the people of God. We should consider the awful instances of apostasy, as Saul, Judas, Demas, etc.; the many warnings we have of it, Mt 24:13; Heb 10:38; Lu 9:62; how it grieves the Holy Spirit; and how wretched it makes us; above all things, our dependence should be on God, that we may always be directed by his Spirit, and kept by his power. — Watson, Theol. Dictionary, s.v.; Buck, Theol. Dictionary, s.v.; Clarke, Theology (by Dunn), p. 360. On the possibility of "falling from grace," SEE PERSEVERANCE.