This has been something that has bothered me for some time now. I have received a few comments on my blog and I gather from reading a few other atheists’ blogs the same pattern seems to appear. They all seem to point in one and the same direction: bad experience in a church.
This is completely understandable and very hard to excuse. I am often embarrassed when an atheist points out what is going on in our churches. (I say ‘ours’ with a great deal of liberalism.) Despite numerous warnings from the Bible that we should not give others any excuse to blaspheme on God’s name, today’s Church can be as ignorant today as it has been in the previous 500 years or at least that is what it looks like.
The question that one would have to ask himself therefore, is what is driving us to make our choices, and why do I do what I do.
One will come up against people from time to time who may have studied theology but consequently decided that Christianity is wrong or perhaps a mother who was married to a minister then decides that her treatment was unacceptable and she becomes an atheist. A father whose child was hurt despite him praying for him/her till the early hours of the morning decides that as he did not receive an answer to his prayers, feels that he is right to conclude that there is no God. Perhaps a son decided that his parents were superstitious and ignorant of modern facts which are readily available and this ignorance will eventually drive him towards atheism. A former minister is heart-broken when his favourite football club is killed in an aeroplane crash and goes on to vent his anger at God and the church, eventually concluding that there cannot be a God who would allow this to happen.
Is there a common issue to drive people away from Christ?
What is absolutely essential to understand is what all these converts to atheism have in common with each other and are they justified in thinking this way?
When you are emotionally hurt, when your Christian friends ignore your plea for help or perhaps the teaching that you receive in your church is of a significant substandard, are we then not right to turn against such ideology? We can’t help but be emotional, after all this is how God created us to be, God himself seems to get angry, sad, happy etc.
I remember being told as a young child to calm down and then think what I want to do, to allow emotions to be linked to my actions and reasoning. This can be at times a very difficult task especially if you are in the spotlight, surrounded by friends who may be of a significantly different religious persuasion from yourself. We should never forget that in the world we live there will always be “Action and reaction to the original action”, but are we justified to abandon our previous convictions, simply because someone else does not like our faith?
After all doesn’t Apostle Paul say that we should mature in our understanding? See
1Co 13:11When I was an infant, I spoke as an infant, I thought as an infant, I reasoned as an infant. But when I became a man, I did away with the things of an infant.
We all like to fit in, to be accepted and to be part of a group. Every time you go to a sports game, every time you go to a concert, you are part of a group of people who may have a similar taste to you and whom you would hope share a similar ideology. It is only natural that at every possible opportunity we would try to reduce the chance of looking out of place and different from our social group, especially if others have names for such “unreasonable” people.
Jesus puts it like this in Matthew 5
Mat 5:11 Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for your reward in Heaven is great. For so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its flavour, with what shall it be salted? It is no longer good for anything, but to be thrown out and to be trodden underfoot by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Christians are often accused of having a one-sided view only and that they should often consider what others are saying about their faith. Granted this is exactly what should happen but does this mean that we should change our mind at the very first hurdle we come up against?
I have often argued that Christians simply cannot afford to be lazy and content with their little lives and ignore all the objections. In fact, in my experience all people of faith whom I really admire have come back from a struggle of scepticism and have overcome all internal objections. They may not have all the answers and indeed some of the answers they may have may not necessarily be my first choice but what is important is that adversity brings strength.
Listen to how Jesus comforts Peter when he knows that his time of testing is coming.
Luke 22:31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not. And when you are converted, strengthen your brothers.
So why do we have such limited and a poor quality of resources which are often pushed ahead of some really amazing material?
Why is there such low appreciation in our churches of the good solid evidence that we could so powerfully use to show God’s love for us and his desire to engage all without exception?
1Peter 3:15 but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason of the hope in you, with meekness and fear;
If only we would listen to the word of God during our time as Christians then maybe, just maybe, there would be fewer who decide to walk away. However, note that God does not give up, even during the time of open rebellion by Israel against God, he again and again calls them back. We are talking of a seriously loving and concerned father, unlike many of our ministers who will never offer anyone a second chance. Why is that I wonder?
So we should encourage all who have questions not to hide but to ask; we should share our own struggle and how God answered and supported our time of wondering.
God is not going to get offended if you ask a difficult question; our doubts can often serve as a good time to grow away from childish beliefs and it is right that we should move on.
1Co 3:1 And I, brothers, could not speak to you as to spiritual ones, but as to fleshly, as to babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk and not with solid food, for you were not yet able to bear it; nor are you able even now.
Finally, can we blame God for the fact that we have rejected his teaching and are turning to atheism due to the actions and infantile teaching of some churches? The answer is “no”. We have an obligation to find it out for ourselves. Every time a Born Again Atheist tells me that he chooses to use reason and logic, we have every right to fire the same question back at them. Why did they not use their discernment during their time as Christians rather than just accept any old rubbish.
This is nothing unusual. We have always had people who will wander away and sometimes this may result in people coming back to God as in my case. At other times people will refuse permanently to be challenged on their assumptions but we should remember one thing: the work of conversion is not our work. We are called to preach and teach not convert; this is the work of the Holy Spirit.
1Co 3:6 I (Apostle Paul) have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.
And finally, one could not possible complete this assessment without mentioning the book of Jude
Jud 1:20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, eagerly awaiting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to everlasting life. 22 But pity some, making distinction. 23 But save others with fear, snatching them out of the fire; hating even the garment having been stained from the flesh. 24 Now to Him being able to keep you without stumbling, and to set you before His glory without blemish, with unspeakable joy; 25 to the only wise God, our Saviour, be glory and majesty and might and authority, even now and forever. Amen.
Jud 1:3 Having made all haste to write to you about the common salvation, beloved, I had need to write to you to exhort you to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.
So let me reiterate here yet again, this is not a new trend, and neither are we left without any resources. Accept the challenge. No, I will change that to embrace the challenge. Love God and trust his love for you. This does not mean that we can treat him as some kind of cosmic vending machine by only submitting our requests and never wanting to build our relationship with him.
However, if your faith is in the person, then you will realise that he is the one who gives us strength to cope with all kinds of things that get thrown our way. If you are still wandering and if you are reading this then you have access to the internet. Therefore, if this is true you at least have one last option left to you: either talk to me here or if you check my links to other blogs check them out to see what they say.
All our decisions should be informed and when we use emotional outbursts to say that “we only use reason” I would ask you to examine your own reply. We can fool the man but we will never fool God; he knows our every thought, and there will come a time when we will have to explain our decision to him.
Bob Dylan was right when he sang about our decision making limits, “You are going to have to serve somebody, it may be the Lord or it may be the Devil but you are going to have to serve somebody”.
Defend the word