Saturday, May 15, 2010

Christian Atheist? Is That Even Possible?

Luke 11:23 He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

I’m going to admit upfront, no beating around the bush and no apology – I have not read the book I will be referencing in this blurb. The title caught my interest, which I assume is the reason the author chose it. Actually the book’s title is blasphemous and at best an oxymoron (I like that term for some reason), which again is probably the authors purpose in choosing it.
The book is “The Christian Atheist”. I first heard of it a few months ago and thought “Hmmm, that sounds completely ridiculous.” The author of the book is Craig Groeschel, “pastor” of LifeChurch.TV. Not really 100% sure what kind of church that is exactly, but from what I gather Groeschel’s “sermons” are broadcast to 12 locations across the US. Also of note, a local “pastor” calls Groeschel a mentor and has shown his videos, but as of now is not a LifeChurch.TV campus.

My better judgment lead me away from desiring to read the book initially, but my wife’s questioning of the book lead me to dig a little deeper than my discerning mind. To my astonishment I could not find a review anywhere by a reputable book critic. I had hoped that Tim Challies would have a review up, but I guess he is not into reading heresy just to dog it out. Still, I have not found a single reputable review of this book.

Not finding a review actually makes me want to read it to do my own review. The problem is I do not want to plunk down $15 for it. So if anyone knows anyone that would like to burn their copy, please have them send it to me so I can read it, I will then burn it for them when I am finished reading it. I am not what you would call a heavy reader and what I do read is by solid authors like Piper, MacArthur and even Ray Comfort (plus a few others, but you get the idea). I do not find myself wanting to read these types of books for their content, but instead for ammunition to be used to tell others to stay clear. I balk at reading also, because I know that what goes into your mind is very hard to get rid of and most of the time stays there indefinitely.

So the latest round in this books history with me happened on facebook. One of my friends posted – “Christian Atheist - one who says they believe in God, but live as though He does not exist.” A comment, or 3, from the “pastor” of the LifeChurch.TV’s local connection Brad, followed that. Look below for the screen capture of the discussion. He asked the poster if it was a Groeschel quote, which he knew it was but just wanted to flex his “Yeah, I know him” muscle – cough, cough. By the time I had gotten to the post to make a comment the poster and the “pastor” were talking about a lunch date, but I couldn’t resist posting my $.02 that went something like this:
“Someone that professes to be a Christian but lives as though God doesn't exist = a lost person. I believe scripture is fairly clear on that. Even the term Christian atheist is blasphemous.”

So, then I get the politically correct version from “pastor” Brad:
“Hey Jeffrey...
I think that 'lost' is the point of the book Christian Athiest from which that quote comes...
Basicallly(his spelling) that's what he means... The whole idea comes from a teaching focused on reaching the lost who think they are believers...”

Just so I will not get it wrong, here is the remainder of the comments/ conversation:
“Gotcha. Does the book focus any on the reason these people believe the way they do?”
“Pastor” Brad: “Typically, in America, the reason for stuff like that is consumerism. People are looking to consume services... They take, take and take some more... Wanting things like heaven, forgiveness, and money... But not wanting to take up their cross and follow Him.”
“Pastor” Brad:
“You just don't get one without the other”
“But aren't those all byproducts of something else? A failing to teach the Word as the Apostles and Christ Himself did? A message that has man at its centrality instead of Jesus? I don't think the root problem is the lost lining the pews on Sunday morning, I think it is the one standing behind the pulpit not accurately presenting the Gospel.
Going after the "Christian Atheist" is damage control, at best. To call these people "Christian" in any sense is blaspheming Christ’s Name. There are only the lost and those saved by God; there is no middle ground. One will not stand before the Holy Throne and say, "I believe in You, but I may not have lived like." If they believed they would have lived like it.”

And there it ended. No reply from Brad and no comments by the original poster, or anyone else. I was kind of disappointed that no one else had any input one-way or the other on the discussion. Not that I like to have disagreements on facebook or anywhere else, but I do like for people to take things a little deeper than face value.

The premise of “Christian atheism” is that someone has a belief in God, professes to be a Christian, does a lot of “Christian” things, but yet lives like there is no God. Actually that pretty much sums up about 90% of those that profess to be Christians today. But does the book address the cause of the terrible fact that today’s “gospel message” is sending countless millions to hell? That is the real issue here and “Christian atheists” are just a by-product of the message that is being spread. If the Word of God was preached in the power of the Spirit, then there would be practically no need of a book like this.

This book, according to the “positive” reviews, paints the picture of those that are on the 3rd road to eternity. This is in contrast to the only 2 roads scripture speaks of, the narrow and the broad. So, for anyone to assume that these “Christian atheists” are on some mid-road is borderline heresy. Jesus put it quite nicely in Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23 “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” So, to say that someone can be for God, but yet not live like it is openly saying that the scriptures are false.

Many times through the Bible we are told that light and dark can’t be together, you can’t serve two masters, do not have fellowship with darkness; if you live in darkness you are lost. So, how does Groeschel mesh his teaching of being an atheist who is also a Christian? That, I am not sure about and might have to read the book to find out. I just know that anyone that truly believes in God, that Jesus died for them, that He was risen on the third day and repents (turns from their sins and to the Holy God) and casts all their being on Christ will be saved. This salvation is not from just the pits of hell, but also from a life that is contrary to the Holy God of creation. Someone that has been truly born again is a new creation and will shun darkness and seek to be conformed into the image of the Savior. These people will not sit in the pews diddling with their cell phones and watching the clock with their only prayer being for the service to hurry up and get over so they can go watch the game.

These lost people were once called backsliders, but as everything with the more emergent folk, they had to come up with a new title for the deceived. I heard the term backslider thrown around much over my childhood life and a lot of my adult life. As a matter of fact, I would have been called a backslider because at the age of 8 I said a prayer, which automatically makes me saved. Saved from what, is the appropriate question there. I lived from the age of 8 until I was 38 professing to be a Christian while those 30 years I lived like the rest of the lost world. I smoked from age 14 through my actual conversion at 38, I drank, had premarital sex, cussed, lusted, lied, stole, blasphemed the Lord and broke every other commandment from God, all the time pointing back to my 8 year old experience, induced by an evangelist with the message of “you don’t want to go to hell do you”. So by all accounts I was just like the majority of professing Christians today, deceived. I was deceived by the modern American message of “just say this prayer” and “just say you’re sorry after you sin”. Never a mention of personal holiness or sanctification. Those words were only used to describe those that were at a higher level of Christianity than the normal Christian. In all actuality those “at a higher level” were those that were probably the ones that were actually converted and were striving after holiness and a closer walk with Christ.

In closing, these “Christian atheists” are lost to put it simply. They need our prayers and most of all need God to intervene. They do not need someone to tell them their Christian atheist title, they need someone to tell them they are sinners and are headed to hell. They need someone that loves them to tell them they are deceived and lost and need to repent or perish. They do not need a fancy new term to describe their “loss-ness”. The congregations need to hear the Word of God and not this ear tickling heresy that spews forth from these so called preachers. Their condemnation will be great on judgment day unless they repent themselves and start faithfully proclaiming the Word in truth.
Click on jpg above for original "conversation" with "Pastor" Brad about the book "The Christian Atheist"

1. A person who believes in and follows Jesus Christ, one who has repented of their sins and relies wholly in Christ.
1.One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God


RC said...

I'm surprised you would want an illegal copy of the book -- you sound like someone who would be opposed to stealing?

Why don't you buy a copy. If you don't like or don't want to keep it, sell it on amazon or ebay.

It sounds like something really is challenging you about this book and that if you want to discuss the topic maybe you should read the book?

I haven't read this book, but I have read Groeshel's "Confessions of a Pastor" and find him easy to read...I think you could read through this book pretty quickly.

I'd be interested in a follow up post w/ your thoughts after reading the book.

Anonymous said...

I am about half-way finished with reading the book Christian Atheist. The book is more of a testimony of the many ways the Pastor from Lifechurch was living with the profession of believing in God, but whenever it came right down to it, he realized that his life and his actions did not reflect what he believes. Most of the book is testimony of how God has changed those things in his life.

Like most books there are some things you have to take and use your own discernment about. Each chapter takes on a different struggle about common issues that everyone deals with, and how God has changed his perceptions of those issues and how to deal with them. The book is very reminiscent of Crazy Love by Francis Chan in the way that it provokes you to examine your own life and how you are living in accordance to what you say you believe.

Some of the chapters in this book have truly challenged me, and helped me to see things in a different perspective.

Jeff said...

RC - Sorry, I was using the old school term "burn" in the sense of lighting fire to a physical copy of the book. I am actually very much against any kind of illegal media being spread (limewire, etc.). Never do I or have I downloaded or used stolen content.

I will probably end up purchasing a copy eventually.

Missy said...

50 billion bonus points for including a picture of Superman.

J.T. said...

In the age of Kindle and bookreaders, I guess "burn a book" means something different than it used to.

Sophie said...

Thought provoking blog. And Missy, I was wondering if you'd comment on the appearance of Superman. :)

Thanks, Wally. I don't say it enough but I love your blog (and you too

Jeff said...

So, I purchased the book today so I can actually do a review of it for myself.

I am in no way a book reviewer, so Tim Challies has nothing to worry about from me. I have finished the first 2 chapters and have been making notes along the way. Don't really want to say anything yet, but will say not knowing anything about Groeschel, he seems to come off as a knowledgeable person that uses people feelings and memorable stories to elicit emotional responses from his readers.

I have discovered that I could probably write a book on his level, as well. Doesn't seem that hard to write like he does. If I would actually plan out what I pen, make outlines, topics, subtopics, etc. I could probably pull off a work of this caliber. Maybe I'll give it a shot.... but I would have to use scripture to make points and not emotional instances from others and my own past.