God Is

Day 46

Christian Atheists

Read your Bible: Isaiah 29:13,14

Spotlight Verse:

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.Titus 1:16a

There’s a danger in Christianity today, a little different than what I called “pagan Christians” earlier. It’s a danger you could fall into after this study. A danger I need to warn you about.

Christian atheism.

Craig Groeschel is a pastor who wrote a book called Christian Atheist. He starts by talking about a time he was on a flight that had two segments.

On the first leg of the flight, he was sitting next to a guy named Travis who asked him what he did for a living, and when Craig replied that he was a pastor, Travis immediately responded, “Oh, I don’t believe in God.” And went on to defend his atheism.

When the plane landed at the first stop, Travis got off and a young woman named Michelle took his place. She instantly started talking about everything she was anxious about in her life— how she felt nervous about flying, was having problems with a boyfriend she lived with, felt upset about her finances.

Then when she asked Craig what he did for a living, and he said, “I’m a pastor,” Michelle exclaimed, “I believe in God too!” In fact, she said, she had received Jesus a long time ago. But then she broke down in tears and admitted, “I believe in God, but I know my life doesn’t look like what a Christian’s life is supposed to look like.”

Craig says he was struck in that moment by the realization that there’s more than one kind of atheist:

There’s the traditional, philosophical atheist, who does not believe in God at all, like Travis.

But then there’s the Christian atheist. Like Michelle. And maybe like you and me, at times.58

I can say I believe in God, and yet for all practical purposes live as if the God I say I believe in does not exist.

Am I a Practical Atheist?

Ask yourself: Does my life look like I am a person who believes in the God of the Bible?

My biggest fear is that you will have merely learned terminology in this study: That your mind has been filled with facts, but those facts haven’t trickled down the 12 inches from your brain to your heart.

We’ve been studying God’s omnipotence, omnipresence, immutability, graciousness, sovereignty, grace…

Do most Christians believe these things are true of God? Maybe theoretically.

But how would you finish this sentence: “I believe in God, but…”

“I believe in God, but I worry all the time.”

“I believe in God, but I constantly feel lonely and abandoned.”

“I believe in God, but I’m burned out spiritually.”

“I believe in God but I have continual anxiety about the future.”

“I believe in God but I figure I can live my life however I want to.”

I think these are all signs of Christian atheism.

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.

I’m not suggesting you’ll never have times when you feel lonely or anxious — that’s just part of the human experience (and those are all emotions even Christ felt at times) —but the core of your being can be peaceful, serene, and confident when what the Bible says about God is truly internalized.

Achievement or Astonishment

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying you must try harder to internalize these truths. I’m asking if you are beholding the wonders of God so that your imagination is captured and you are changed. I’m not talking about achievement. I’m talking about astonishment.

In today’s reading from Isaiah 29, the Lord says that His cure for the practical atheism of the people is this:

“I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder.” Isaiah 29:14

Their hearts have grown stale — and so He will let them witness the wonder of the rocket blast-off!

I pray that the same thing has happened with you as you’ve studied God’s attributes in nature and Scripture.

I pray that you haven’t just studied, but that God has put Himself on display and blown you away.

I pray that these amazing truths make a difference in you.

I pray that you keep your eyes wide open for traces of God all around you.

And I pray that if you feel yourself drifting from God in the future you don’t try harder to “feel” Him again through the addition of rigorous rules or disciplines. That ways lies spiritual dryness, and a bondage to a kind of legalism.

God without Additives

God observes in Isaiah 29 one result of not really knowing Him: Adding human religious rules to worship. “Their worship of me is based on merely human rules…”

The people were essentially building an idol.

Not a statue. But a system.

This is exactly what happens to me, too, when I don’t pay attention to what the Bible really says about the identity of God: I complicate and trivialize my faith with all sorts of extra teachings and rules.

Margaret Feinberg, in her book The Organic God, uses a food analogy to explain this. As she puts it, the real God of the Bible is organic, while the false god we often concoct is a result of putting too many religious additives, preservatives, flavorings, and colorings into the mix.59

The solution: Getting back to the 100% natural God. Relaxing, and letting God once again capture your imagination. And all the rest of you too!

I pray that you gaze in wonder at the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and live in gratitude for God’s grace to you in every moment of every day.

May you enjoy the richness of the organic God for the rest of your life!

Questions For Reflection

Does your life look like you are a person who believes in the God of the Bible?

Which attribute of God do you struggle with the most? Why?