I can relate too many of the atheistic views discussed in this book, and Dan asks some very valid questions of those whose faith is in nothing. Why do we often choose to reject God, to discard the concept of God? One phrase leapt out at me as the author discusses a man named Zach, who has chosen to believe in nothing.
“But I do think Zach should honestly consider whether his trajectory away from Christianity is based on the central claims of the gospel or on the all-too-often ridiculous nature of many who profess faith. These are two very different claims.”
I personally once called myself an atheist, although in retrospect I believe I was just an angry agnostic, a disillusioned believer. I grew up in Christianity. I grew up the daughter of a pastor. I grew up watching my dad constantly suffer, and be so often mistreated by “pillars” of the church. I experienced very judgmental people, and a lot of “thou shall not’s”. These things, and my life experiences, drove me to reject the church and to develop a disdain for most Christians.
Fortunately for me, I saw true faith in my father; sadly there are folks out there that did not have that experience. For them, most everything they have experienced has been negative. Consider the words of Paul in the book of Colossians 4:6, where he states “Let your speech always be seasoned with grace, as though seasoned with salt so that your will know how you should respond to each person.” And in 1 Peter 3:15 we have “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”. You see, we, the people of the cross, the ones who say that we follow Jesus Christ; we are a type of gospel, to those who do not know Him. We may be the only gospel that some people ever see. If my words, my life, my actions are such a contradiction to the message of the gospel written in scripture, people will reject my message, and may never even make an attempt to understand the true gospel that God has given in the pages of scripture.
In the book, the author quotes a minister who said these words; “The single greatest cause for atheism in the world today, is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyles. This is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
I can only tremble at the thought of how many folks, across my 26 years of walking with Christ I may have turned away from the gospel, where my actions, my words, my blindness preached something else to them and therefore helped them along the path of rejecting God. It’s a heavy thing to reflect on.
Going back to the quote that I shared, from the book, I can say for certain that my path away from faith, away from Christianity was based on the all too often ridiculous nature of those who professed faith. It was the judgments, it was watching a deacon in church stand up and pray, and talk about grace, while knowing that it was his voice on the phone that I answered, his voice telling me that “they would run my dad out of town on a rail for hanging out with #$^% (not even gonna share the word used.) Here was a “pillar” of the church, and he was a racist. Also included in my choice to walk away, was the church lady, whose favorite song was “How Great Thou Art” and who informed me that she did not believe black people had souls.
Now one thing I must point out, before I lose the thought, is not everyone was like these two I have mentioned. There were a lot of decent persons in my youth, who did display Christ to me, my dad being one among them, but the truth of the matter is, and it’s especially true for young folks, is one negative can outweigh a hundred positives. In the mind and heart of a zealous young person, one negative can send a powerful message. For me, the message was clear, decent, kind, uneducated folks, mean well, but they are ignorant of truth, there is no God, because look at how people who say they believe act, look at the pillars of the church. It’s all a farce, a crutch created, because the world is harsh and dark and we need something to believe in. That was pretty much my view of Christianity.
Fortunately, the God of the universe, the One who spoke all things into being, is gracious and kind, and continued to pursue me across the wastelands, and brought me to an understanding and knowledge of the gospel, and I realized that it is Him that I must consider, it is Him who sets the mark, and that every last one of us, from Mother Theresa on down, miss that mark. As to why we have so many harsh, mean and judgmental people within the walls of the physical church, I cannot say for certain, only that perhaps they are not yet in the place that God wants them to be, in their walk with Him, for it is a process of growth and understanding, or perhaps they are the ones that He speaks of in Matthew 7: 21-23, but for me, it matters not for I know Him now. My faith is firm, it is unshakable. I may falter in walking it out, I may not speak when I should, or as I should on any given moment, but my belief in Him cannot be shaken. As Job cried out, “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
I understand what it is to have no faith in a personal God. I have been there. I have been atheist, I have been agnostic. I pray that all those who struggle, all those who have rejected, will be moved to deeply examine their reasons for so believing. Do not let life experiences or broken people be the cause of your faith in nothing. Examine the scriptures; examine the historical reasons for believing, examine the scientific reasons for believing in a Creator. Examine and I will trust God to do the rest.
For “if the resurrection is true, then racist deacons and anti-intellectual Christian teachers don’t negate its authority and power. They do however illustrate that we are unworthy and that we all have a long way to go. At the same time, no faith is more multi-cultural and has motivated more intellectual inquiry than the worldview whose story of creation, fall, and redemption through resurrection wrestles honestly with our failures—and the process of overcoming them.”
It is my prayer that; You will know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death. Philippians 3:10; and I pray that Christ may live in your hearts by faith. I pray that you will be filled with love. I pray that you will be able to understand how wide and how long and how high and how deep His love is. I pray that you will know the love of Christ. His love goes beyond anything we can understand. I pray that you will be filled with God Himself. Ephesians 3:17-19
Jesus or Nothing, a great little book and well worth your time in reading it, regardless of whether you are a believer firm in your faith, or a skeptic, or a seeker.
Here is an older post of my personal testimony, for any who may be interested.