Confessing Christians, Practicing Atheists

Are we really showing the difference the Christian life makes? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today during some time I had alone, I started thinking about the way we live our lives. Look at how many of us wrestle with issues that we have today. How many of us in the church struggle with addictions and sorrows? Now of course, some of this is the day to day of ordinary living. Someone who has recently lost a loved one is not supposed to feel happy. There is something wrong if they do. Even barring extreme examples like that, there are regular day to day events that don’t bring us the greatest of joy, and that’s understandable, but overall, our lives are to be examples of joy.

The sad part is some readers who are down will be wanting to ask what we have to be joyful about.

Let’s start off. God is in his Heaven and Jesus is Lord and we are invited to join into His rule as the king of this world.

If you’re sitting there still wondering what the big deal is, you have a problem.

And insomuch as I do the same thing, I have a problem.

First off, I want to state some thoughts on how we got to this point exactly. Our ancestors lived in a world where the deities or deity always mattered. Christianity did not change that. Throughout the medieval period, the highest study you could attain to was the knowledge of God. You had to have learned every other subject well before you could move on to that one. Then something happened. I start it at the Reformation. Now I think even the most ardent Catholic would admit the Catholic Church was not the picture of purity and innocence at that time. Yes. Wrongs were being done by the church and yes, changes needed to take place. Of course, this is really true of every church and will be because every church is composed of these problematic creatures called humans.

The sad thing is that even though I think the Reformation was needed, a good thing can go to far. The questioning of the highest authority on Earth led to the questioning of the highest authority in Heaven. Questioning is good of course, but a lot of people were throwing out the baby with the bathwater. It would be interesting to know if this would have happened had the Reformation never happened, but we do not have access to know such a thing. I reckon it often when we do this thing to be like teenagers given the keys to their parents’ car and then suddenly thinking they’re in charge of the world and don’t need anyone, neglecting the fact that Mom and Dad hold the credit card that pays for the gas.

So we go on and note that I have said the questioning is not the problem. In fact, I wish more historical Jesus questioning had been going on and that we had been learning more. The good part for a Christian is that we can be open to any avenue of questioning and should do so without fear. What do we have to be concerned about? If Christianity is true, then honest and real investigation will lead to that. If it is not, then we should be thankful that we have been shown that that which we put our greatest trust in is false. Naturally, I do not see this happening on any level, but I still do read the opposing sides just in case I am missing anything.

As we moved on, we got to Deism. There is a God, but He’s more of an absentee God. He created things, but He cares nothing about you. He is indifferent to all the evil that is going on in this world. This deity is more of a stopgap to explain the word philosophically. However, people who grow up with absentee fathers can often say that there is little difference between an absentee father and no father at all. They certainly can and they certainly do say that. The next step in the worldview would act on it and that would lead us to atheism.

If atheism is true, then really, we are in a bind. We have to seek out something. Man by nature does want to be happy. He wants at least the satisfaction of his desires. If his highest desires, such as his rationality, lead to nothingness, then why not move on to his other desires? This is where we end up centering our lives on things like sex, money, food, fame, drugs, etc. Many of these can be good things in themselves. In fact, the first one on the list, sex, is quite likely our nation’s #1 choice of deity right now. Many a Christian can easily understand this, and if we don’t, that says more about our sex lives than it does about sex itself. Sex was made to be a beautiful and wonderful and transcendent experience. As a lady was telling my wife and I yesterday, it is a great power women have over men especially and men will do most anything for this good. I can easily say it is amazing how many life changes I made for the better in my life after getting married and how much more confident I was in many areas. That is not an accident.

But there is a danger here. One dare not think about sex too much on this level. What is it for? Does it have any greater purpose? Is there anything beyond the physical act? Such thinking could lead one to questions that might wind up with God, the explanation that is desired to be avoided. One pastoral author has said actually that if anyone asks you to prove that God exists, just answer with one word. “Sex.” If they don’t understand your argument, they’ve quite likely said more about their sex life than they ever intended. Many of my friends are single and could be thinking I’m making too big a deal here. If you’re one of those, just wait until you get married and then get back to me.

This is also why our nation is so odd when it comes to sex. Although we have mountains of evidence of the dangers of constant illicit sex, although our experience shows it, although there is much science backing the pro-life position, this is all ignored. The only reason this is ignored is because it is sex. As soon as we start saying there is a proper time and a proper place for sex and a proper purpose for it, well then we enter into the area of design. We are the children once again who are satisfied with having the toy that we pay no attention to who gave us the toy and why they gave it to us.

So we have a world that lives like there is no God, and many are sure there isn’t, and that our highest good is the satisfaction of our own desires.

We expect that of those outside the fold.

But it’s also showing up within the fold.

Yet what if we could return to that one central truth? There is a God and Father who is in charge of the world and while He doesn’t always interact as we would like, He does interact. It is an incredible interaction every day that He holds all creation together. Yet even still, to say that there is a God is not enough. That can get you deism, but deism really doesn’t answer our existential cravings so much. This is a great danger especially in apologetics. We can spend so much time defending a goal that we forget what difference the goal makes. Lewis said we can defend God so much that we would give the impression that God has nothing better to do than simply to exist.

Theism is indeed an awesome and incredible claim, but we Christians make a more incredible one. This God that we worship exists in Trinity and the second person of this Trinity entered into human history. He walked as one of us, lived a life like one of us, and then He died. He died and then He rose again in a new and glorified body and in fact promised that if we follow Him, that the same thing would happen to us.

Let’s keep one thing in mind. When the skeptic says that this is a unique claim, they are right. They in fact could realize more the greatness of what it is that we are claiming. We do need a lot of evidence to back this and I have given it elsewhere here and there are many scholarly works that do demonstrate that great evidence. Yet here is where the rubber meets the road ultimately. Take Lewis’s statement and apply it here. Could we sometimes be so caught up in defending the resurrection, which we absolutely must do, that we would practically give the impression that the most important point is to show that Jesus arose, though who on Earth knows why He did?

Recently, a cousin of mine who’s a pastor put up a status about following Jesus on Facebook and how important it is. I certainly agree that it is, but I wanted to press the issue some. I did state that I was a Christian, but I was interested in people asking the question about why we follow Jesus. What purpose could we have to it? The sad tragedy is that I don’t think anyone ever responded to that. Now if we are unable to tell ourselves why it is that we follow Jesus, how on Earth could it be that we could tell someone else why they should follow Jesus? Do we do it just for our personal feelings? “Try Jesus! You’ll like Him!” We can in our evangelism and giving our “personal testimony” treat Jesus as if He was some 12-step program that if we follow Him will make us all feel better about ourselves.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s more to following Jesus.

We are right to defend the resurrection as a historical reality. As it is, I want to be adamant on that. Christianity hangs or dies on this being a real event or not. If Jesus is not risen, let us please go on our way and do something else. If He did rise, let us do nothing else than live the way He commanded us to as servants of the Kingdom. The danger is that we take the resurrection of Jesus and make it a past event only and ignore that it is a reality that reaches far beyond itself to touch everything that happens around it. If the resurrection of Jesus is true, then everything else in this world is different. If it is not, then as Paul said “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

If the resurrection is not true, I frankly cannot blame the world for living the way that it lives.

If the resurrection is true, I can greatly blame Christians, including myself, for living the way we live.

Let’s return to that starting place. God exists, well and good. But who is He? What is He like? We could use our Aristotelian proofs, and do not misunderstand me. I think the Aristotelian-Thomistic arguments are powerful and conclusive to show that God exists, but this deity is not necessarily the God revealed in Jesus Christ. He could be, but He is not necessarily. That does not mean the arguments are useless. They are a stepping stone. We must go to the greatest revelation of God and too often, we’ve treated the historical Jesus as the resurrected Messiah, but not in any way revealing to us who God is.

If our theology is not informed by Jesus, our theology is not an informed theology.

I’d therefore like to challenge myself and everyone else to know what it is you believe and why it is that you believe it. I have in fact used this approach in person before. When my grandmother passed away, I was one of three pastors given ten minutes to speak. I had lain out what I wanted to speak on and my own wife and mother at the time were skeptical, but I asked them to trust me on it. Later on, they had to admit my practice was a right one. In the first five minutes, I gave a brief apologetic to show that the resurrection of Jesus was a historical reality. I spent the last five showing what a difference it made, including what it meant and would mean for my grandmother. Both of the other preachers I found out later were impressed and the audience I think overall left in a good mood celebrating the life of my grandmother, which was also helped as after I was done, I was the Master of Ceremonies as it were gathering stories for us to share publicly about my grandmother.

Now was there still sorrow? Absolutely. My grandmother had died. Even as I write this, there is a tinge of sorrow, especially as I realize my wife and I currently live in her old house. This house that I used to go see my grandmother in regularly is the one we live in today and if I thought of it long enough, I could see many memories forming in my mind here. Yet that sorrow is not overwhelming. Paul told the Thessalonians that we mourn, but not like those who have no hope. Yes. We should mourn. Mourning is good and healthy. It is part of grief, but it is not proper to mourn as if we have a lost cause. When we mourn, we mourn not for the loved one in Christ who died. We mourn for ourselves as our lives are forever more lowered without these people in them.

But as we mourn, there is a hint of rejoicing. We know the story is not over yet. There is a God who has acted in Christ.

As I end this, I hope there is a note of joy showing up in you. If there isn’t and you’re a Christian, you might want to ask what it would take. If the fact that God exists and has revealed Himself in Christ and has invited you to join in His Kingdom does not excite you, good grief but whatever could?

In Christ,
Nick Peters