Sunday, June 13, 2010

Craig Groeschel's "The Christian Atheist" review (Kinda)

I did it. I finished the book “The Christian Atheist:Believing in God but Living As If He Doesn't Exist”. I actually finished it in fairly decent timing for me, 9 days. I am not the most avid of readers and another thing I am not is a book critic, but one of the main reasons I chose to read this was for that very reason, there were no reviews. Tim Challies, you have nothing to worry about from me. I can barely put 2 words together to make a thought, much less pass an adequate understanding of a book along to others.

This book piqued my curiosity. Its title caught me off guard one day, with the thought “Hey, that’s not even possible!” I even commented on a friend’s wall post (see earlier blog) on facebook and had a “conversation” as to the meaning of the book.

Before reading the book, my number 1 gripe with the book was the title. “The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living As If He Doesn't Exist”. To me, before even reading the book its title alone was blasphemy. You can’t take the word Christian and tack the word atheist onto it to describe a person’s belief structure. Like I said, that was before I read the book. Now, after reading the book, I still say the same thing. The title is blasphemy through and through. So much that when I was reading he book, as I took notes I had to abbreviate it CA because I couldn’t bring myself to even write it down.

I want to first contrast the term “Christian Atheist” with another term “Skydiving atheist”. Not that the skydiver doesn’t believe in God, he doesn’t believe in parachutes. He has decided that he is ready to take up skydiving, he goes to a land school where they teach him all the terms, safety aspects, altitude dangers, etc. but most important, they teach him about his parachute. Without his parachute he will plummet to the ground, nothing to slow his fall and ease him softly to the ground he would end up a pile of broken bones and flesh. So, the new skydiver packs into the airplane so very excited at his first jump. The whole class is with him and he volunteers to go last, so he can take part in the others experience as they yell going out of the door. Finally it is his turn, he gets to the door and the instructor says, “Wait a minute. Where’s your chute? You’ll never make it without your chute.”
The newest skydiver looks steadfastly at the instructor and says, “Sir, I have listened to you for a week tell me the ups and downs of parachuting. I can recite everything in my sleep. I know it so well, I don’t need my chute. I believe that it can benefit me, but I definitely do not need it. Seeeee yaaaaaaa!” As he jumps from the plane.
No need to say what happened to him. Splat is the only word needed. But he believed in the chute. Isn’t that enough? Not at all. He did not put his faith in the parachute.

So, why can a story like that sound so ludicrous but not the picture that Groeschel paints? How can someone truly believe in Jesus, the Son of God, but yet not live like it? It is an oxymoron, it is not possible. To believe in God and the atonement of Jesus on the cross for sins is not a pick and choose kind of thing.

Now that I vented somewhat, I will actually say a little about what Groeschel has to say in the book. Actually I do not have many issues in what the book does say as much as the issues in what it doesn’t say. As I mentioned, the title itself is very offensive and blasphemous, the term “Christian atheist” used by Groeschel should actually be “professing Christian” and is what I used when reading the book. Professing Christian is exactly what the author is portraying in this book, someone who believes in the facts of God, but still lives like there is no God. This, my friend, is not a “Christian atheist” but a lost person.

Groeschel puts into 21st Century wording what most easy believism church pastors and evangelists have been saying all along. Another word that could is used interchangeably with Groeschel’s term is “backslider”. These terms and false theologies are very damning and are sending many to hell. At their core is the mentality that since you have “taken care” of your salvation you are free to do what you want, your sins are forgiven anyway, so you might as well keep on sinning. This, of course, is a far cry from the repentance and faith demanded by scripture.

Groeschel’s personal biography plays into the book from cover to cover. He is very free with his life story, which I applaud. He recounts a VBS story about being told to raise your hand then into mid teen years conversation with a pastor who pretty much told him to just do good things, stay away from evil and that’ll get you to heaven. After this his college days are talked about, when he started actually realizing something wasn’t aligning, that something was missing in his relationship with God. That “thing” actually was God that was missing. His “conversion” happened on a softball field where he fell down and cried out to God “take my life”, which I will not knock, it’s not the words one says, it is the heart condition that reveals if the conversion was true.

The years tick by, Groeschel becomes a pastor and gets wrapped up in his ministry. In fact his ministry actually is his god as he tried to “collect converts like Michaels Phelps collected gold metals”. Sadly, this too is the mentality of most pastors and evangelists today. It is more about the numbers than it is about proclaiming the truth of God’s Word.

I will not pick the book apart piece by piece, even though it is warranted to do so as Groeschel is supposedly relaying God’s Word to others. To sum the book up, it is basically the pats on the back self serving pastors give to the teenage boy that is standing in their office, wondering if they are actually saved or not. With 240 pages Craig Groeschel reaffirms the reader that they are okay after all, that it’s o.k. to not believe in God to the extent scripture dictates. The non – “Christian atheist” Christianity that Groeshel describes is a works based righteousness as well.

The Emergent theology is apparent in the closing chapters as Groeshel talks about a social gospel. Just do good to people and show them Jesus, preach the gospel and use words if necessary kind of philosophy is prevalent in his words. Of course he lists some of his accomplishments and how his church changed peoples lives, what his church did for those in his communities. Don’t get me wrong, these are good things, but without the gospel they are just good deeds done by some good people. One not need to be a Christian to do good in their community and any good done should be capped off with why that good was done in the first place. This is what Jesus and His disciples did. They gathered groups of hungry people, fed them all then proclaimed the truth of the gospel of Christ. They did not waste an attentive crowd to let it be known that these 13 men fed us and then left. Those that got fed also got a big dose of truth. Jesus never left a sinner without letting them know their sinful state and telling them to sin no more. Some even went away sad, some never got it like the Pharisees, but they always got the truth of the Word.

In that is our command, to spread the seed of the Gospel of Christ. Sadly, this book does not do that and only adds more to the arsenal of the lost, professing Christian/ false convert. The bit of truth that shines through in Groeschel’s words on page 233, “God created me in my image. I returned the favor and created Him in mine”. But he never tells of his repentance to that fact, never tells of the True God of scripture. What he does do is set a 3-line division between levels of Christianity. The first line believers “believe just enough to be saved”, but still love the world, still live a worldly life. The second line “Christian” have a little change, but do just enough to benefit and give a little back, as long as it doesn’t cost too much. The third line “Christian” are the ones that believe enough to give your life to “it” (Christ). He does say that the first 2 lines do not really seem like real Christianity to him anymore, but does not give a call to those still living there to repent and believe as commanded.

So it is not really what Groeschel says is any different than any other “pastor” out there. It is what he and the other do not say. They do not give a true account on what the bible says a true believer does, the evidences that a true believer will have (fruit) and that his 3rd line Christian is the only true Christian. He sidesteps the answer and says “they don’t seem to be” to him, not that they really need to examine themselves to see that they are in the faith. A person with the readership of Groeschel should be taking the opportunity to sow the seeds of the Word in his reader’s hearts and minds. He has done a dis-service to his readers and taken them to a comfortable level again, they are still lost, they are still comfortable with being false converts, still living in sin and still not concerned. They have their “ticket” to heaven and are going to live like hell on this earth. They now have one more catchphrase to use to describe themselves - adding to nominal Christian, worldly Christian, carnal Christian and the ever popular backslider. The term “Christian atheist” is an abomination and blasphemy. To mix the Holy Name of Christ with the term that is blatant disregard of Him is worthy of damnation.

I pray that Craig Groeschel will one day repent of making up this term. I pray that God uses this book to actually save souls, after Groeschel rebuts it for being forgiving of the unforgiven. Any book that invokes the Name of Christ and does not adequately portray Him is very dangerous. I recommend this book only to those that need to see the mentality of professing Christianity today. If you think yourself to be a “Christian atheist” then you are lost. You need to repent of your sins and believe in Christ. You need to get out of the church that condones this type of “theology” and into a true Church that leans on the Word of God for everything, that leans on Christ for everything.

I am sorry if you thought you were going to get a real review of this book. I am not a reviewer and I am not much of a writer. What I am is someone that loves the Lord and what He has done for me. I do not profess anything except to be His and be available to be used by Him in whatever ways He sees fit. This “book review” started with a post on Facebook that just gave the title of the book. Following the post was a local “pastors” comments about the book, how he was mentored by Craig Groeschel, etc. I asked a few questions and then realized I was talking about a book that I knew nothing more about than the title and what the dust jacket said. I was commenting about the title and knew I needed to read the book to see if my concerns were warranted or not. They were and so I needed to write a little about the book. I am really concerned with the social gospel that is being portrayed by the likes of Groeschel and the others that seem to be in the Emergent movement. They like to explain what the “Church” needs to do to reach the community, but always seem to leave out telling the true Gospel that Jesus and His disciples preached. They want it to be relational and pragmatic, the ends justify the means mentality. But, the end is more often the pits of hell, as they do not tell of the repenting faith that Jesus spoke of during His earthly ministry. Without that, building houses, cleaning up and painting brothels, helping an old lady across the street are but wood, hay and stubble. They are meaningless.


Thinking Out Loud said...

I came across your post through Facebook and followed the link to here. I enjoyed your comments and insights. I agree with you about the mentality of so many people (I wont use the word Christian here) are lost and don't even realize it because of the false doctrine being proclaimed to itchy ears.

I have recently been stating this comment to people. The Church needs fewer Christians and more Disciples of Christ.

By the way, I am a pastor and I strive to preach the whole gosple without shame or apology.

Only and Always Because of Christ,
Scott Polley
Senior Pastor
Life in Christ Fellowship

I am on facebook under Scott Polley as well as Life in Christ Fellowship

Jackson said...

Dude you are a tool. People like you are the reason unbelievers think we are idiots. You sit in your moms basement and think you know all things. Your profile wreaks of false humility and your writing about this book wreaks of spiritual pride. I know cause I was once like you. Its real easy to sit at the game and criticize the players while you are in a cozy seat. God bless you.

Jeff said...

I post all comments that do not contain cursing or attacks. Even though Jackson did try to attack me I still published his comment to show how militant some people can be, wanting to say "stop judging" while pointing a finger at the same time.

My profile is 100% true and my "game" is the path that God leads me. So, I am very much "in the game". Just because I point out the flaws in a book doesn't mean I am prideful. It means that I respect the Word of God and God Himself enough to point out heretical teachings and damning books like this one. The "christian atheist" mentality will be sending many to hell that think they can live a life of sin after a false profession of faith and confirmation by a pastor.

Kris said...

I am honestly surprised at your comments, since I have read the same book and it seems that your comments flow from your original dislike of the title rather than the actual content of the book itself.

At the end of one of your comments, you said, "The "christian atheist" mentality will be sending many to hell that think they can live a life of sin after a false profession of faith and confirmation by a pastor."

That is almost exactly what Craig is saying in the book! His thesis is the opposite, and if you read the afterword about third line Christianity, he is encouraging Christians to stop saying "Lord, Lord" with their mouths and to step into complete obedience. It really seems to me like you read a different book than I did, because I thought it was an excellent and relevant book, which had a message almost the opposite of what you presented.

Jeff said...

Kris - "he is encouraging Christians to stop saying "Lord, Lord" with their mouths and to step into complete obedience" - THis is exactly my fear - that people who profess to be Christians will "step into" complete obedience, works, while still never knowing Jesus Christ personally. Just because someone professes to be a Christian does not mean they are one. Groeschel panders those that have made false professions of faith, said a prayer, walked an aisle, got baptized, attend church regularly, were "born Christians", etc. and affirms to them (falsely) that they are indeed Christians, just need to start acting like it.

When the grace of God is removed it is replaced with works - do better, act better, step up your game, work, work, work, instead of resting in Christ and The Work He did, not anything we can do. Otherwise people will rely on what they did (do) to be the determining factor(s) of their salvation instead of Christ alone.

SuzieViews said...

Visit and listen to some sermons from Michel (Miki) Hardy. I think you'll be encouraged to know that there are men of God today, who still preach the Gospel without needing to use clever or convincing arguments and words, but preach a Christ that confronts and sets free those who listen and hear. We so need a deeper understanding of what he did on the Cross, His Grace and the Law that is still so prevalent in all of us.

Sue said...

I agree with your review. Our preacher just did a sermon. The sermon was based on the book The Christian Atheist. On our way home I told my husband that something about the sermon really bothered me. It was that Christian and Atheist are used as one person instead of two. I said it just feels wrong. And some of the things that our pastor said like worry is a sin. He used an example of your child is late coming home an you are worried as a sinful worry. I just do not think he understands God as much as he thinks he does. Jesus was telling the disciples not to worry and gave wisdom of words to remember when they were worried. I do not think Jesus was using it as another commandment. I have not read the book. After hearing the things our pastor used to give a message out of the book that turned me off from wanting to read it. But the title also played apart.