Last week, I was in a Christian bookstore when I saw Craig Groeschel’s book The Christian Atheist. Now let me preface this by saying I have not read this book, but it caught my attention and had me thinking all day. Why is the pastor of the largest multi-site church in the country, Life.Church, writing a book about Christian atheists? Or even more, what is a Christian atheist? Because I would hazard to say that Christian atheism may be the most dangerous thing facing our church today.
To me, Christian atheism is one who calls themselves a Christian, but does not live as a Christian ought to. Now I know what you are going to say, being a Christian is not about doing this or that, but about faith in Jesus Christ. And yes, that is correct. However, as the reformer Martin Luther is credited to saying:
“We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”
Now what does this mean? It means that as followers of Christ, we are being conformed to his image every day. His Spirit is working in us to change us into the image of Jesus. As Jesus says, you will know a tree by its fruit. When we are attached to the vine (Jesus), then we bear the fruit of Jesus. We are still sinners, but we see the progress in our lives as we continue in relationship with him. And I know that we see Christian atheists all around. I am not being judgmental, I have been in that boat as well. I am simply stating the truth that many people claim to be followers of Christ but are quenching the Spirit’s attempts to work in them, and that is a dangerous road to be on – do not believe me? Listen to possibly the scariest thing Jesus says in the whole Bible –
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’
-Matthew 7:21-3, NRSV
So why is Christian atheism so dangerous? To this question I give two dominant reasons. Firstly, Christian atheists are often deceiving themselves. They claim to be Christians and often times likely believe they are. However, Jesus gives stern warnings to people who fall into this boat. It is above my pay grade to identify who these people are, but it makes me definitely do some self-examination.
Secondly, Christian atheists are a poor reflection of the church. Much of Western society hates the church and sees us as the bane of religion. While some of this may be unwarranted, I can understand why people believe many people who say they are Christians are hypocrites and such. We do not often times walk the talk we preach. The title Christian is equivalent to saying a follow of Christ. If we claim to be his followers, then why are we doing such a poor job at imitating him? I know I do not love others nearly as well as Christ, and I definitely do not see and treat the outsider the way Christ does. But I am striving for it.
So my motivation for you to meditate on today is just that. Don’t be a Christian atheist. Follow Christ the best you can, imitating him and allowing the Spirit to work in you. The Christian walk is called a marathon for a reason. It is a process, not instantaneous. However, as Paul says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor 13:12). We only see and know partly now, and we will only live our lives in a partial image of Christ. We will not obtain perfection here on earth, but we will continually grow in Christ until we do see him face to face. So lets eliminate Christian atheism.