The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as if He doesn’t Exist: By Craig Groeschel
My friend recently recommended this book and, judging by the title alone, I was compelled to read it. I will venture to say that it is likely a factual account and reflection of many of our own lives. A life of a Christian Atheist is that of someone who believes in God and yet lives as if He does not exist. So what exactly does that imply? As the chapters of the book allude to, a Christian Atheist believes in God, BUT: doesn’t really know Him, isn’t sure that God loves him/her, doesn’t believe in the power of prayer, doesn’t forgive, doesn’t think that he/she can change, worries all the time, pursues happiness at all costs, trusts more in money than in God, doesn’t share his/her faith, and does not believe in Church. In summary, the Christian Atheist believes in God, but does not genuinely demonstrate a deep love for God. Because, if one truly harbored such love, one would also be obedient to the Lord, exhibiting reverence, respect, and honor, all of which represent what is termed the fear of the Lord. It is this fear of God that then results in the attainment of wisdom and knowledge, in the departure from evil, and in the simplest term, in life. I will be the first to admit that for periodic extended periods, my life has not been much different than that of a Christian Atheist.
Following His commandments
In Matthew 22:36-40, when Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, He replied “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” How often do we live for ourselves rather than God? How often do we assume that God exists for us, rather than us for Him? If He met my expectations, then surely, I would love Him more. If He granted me all of my desires and wants, then surely I would praise Him and love Him. If He’d come through for me, I’d give Him more of my life. However, how often have we actually been truly obedient and faithful to Him, even during hardships and tribulations? Jesus Himself, asked “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” How often do we pray for our own will to be fulfilled rather than truly for the will of God? And, once we receive our answer or lack thereof, how often do we become ambivalent of the Lord and His plan for our lives?
Faith, obedience, reverence, and trustfulness are surrogates for love. If we do not have faith, then how can trust in the Lord be established? If we then profess our faith, how can we say that we trust in His will and yet worry about what tomorrow may bring? And, if we have faith and yet do not obey the commandments, if we do not forgive those who malign us, or if we do not make a concerted effort to execute corporal acts of mercy, then how can we say that we love God, let alone know Him? The Lord calls those blessed who embody the beatitudes that we all know well from Matthew chapter 5. These are the revelations of His Kingdom, the acts by which the Kingdom of God may reside within us. And yet, as Christian Atheists, many of us choose to believe in God and yet discount many of these teachings.
As we get to know the Lord more by following His commandments and obeying Him and being faithful to Him, we become transformed, not by our own power, but by His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus recruited tax collectors, uneducated fishermen, and revolutionaries to be His own disciples. He surrounded Himself with the lonely, broken, and ostracized members of society. And yet, they became His greatest disciples, transformed by the Holy Spirit to serve Him and preach His Words. Are we then any less worthy of this Grace? How amazing it is to believe and trust that His mercy overshadows our greatest sins if only we turn to Him and follow a road of redemption. We are bound by the limitless love of God and His grace is sufficient for us, regardless of our sins and regardless of whatever thorns we may have in our sides. After all, His power is made perfect in our weaknesses. And, through Him, we may be ultimately and completely transformed.
This has been quite a revealing book. It is not enough for us to say we believe in God if we do not embody or enact the teachings that Christianity professes. How can we graduate to true Christianity and abandon our Christian Atheist views? Honestly, many know the answer to this, but perhaps it may be worth recapitulating. The first step is to love God by following His commandments and by reading and understanding scripture, which is His way of communicating with us. On the other hand, continual prayer is our way of communicating with Him. Additionally, by engaging in our Church, we become part of a group that ministers to one another in love, in fellowship, and as the body of Christ. We become part of community that is then able to minister to others outside of the walls of the Church. In Church, we learn the Word of God and, by doing so, we become transformed and, in turn, play an integral part in transforming others. We become the light of the world, as true Christians are called to be.
There is so much more to this book than what I presented as the thoughts above are purely my own. If you are looking for additional insight and examples, then I highly recommend reading this book. If you have read it, I would love to hear your perspective.