Monday, May 19, 2014

BookPastor >> "The Christian Atheist" (Craig Groeschel)

TITLE: The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living As If He Doesn't Exist
AUTHOR: Craig Groeschel
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010, (256 pages).

Think about the following statements made by non Christians.
  • "I'm surprised you say you are a Christian?" 
  • "Huh? I never knew you were a Christian." 
  • "You are not as Christian as you ought to be."
  • "You a Christian? Don't kid me."
  • .....
These questions and their variants can often be hurled at people who call themselves Christians, but through their lifestyles, they deny the very faith they claim to profess. Is that not an oxymoron? That is why the title of this book essentially describes the contrasts of two seemingly opposite poles. How can one be a Christian and yet lives like an atheist? Craig Groeschel, senior pastor of, the same organization that has given us the highly popular YouVersion Bible app for smartphones, states emphatically that such "Christian Atheists" are everywhere. In a hard hitting book against hypocrisy in churches, Groeschel hopes to challenge all believers to start living out the faith exactly according to what they profess. Admitting his own journey from the Christian Atheist position, he points out ten key observations of what a Christian Atheist is.

First, such a person is one who believes in God but does not really know God. One can do a lot of work in Church, read a lot of Bible, mix with a lot of believers, say a lot of Christianese language, and still does not know God intimately. A person who knows God intimately will be increasingly aware of God's presence under all circumstances, acknowledges God's provision regularly, ride on God's power constantly, seeking out God's peace faithfully. Lest Christians become only a hollow label.

Second, the Christian Atheist tends to be ashamed of the past. They never grow beyond their confession of sin and shame. Instead, they wallow constantly in their weaknesses, unable to embrace a future of God's grace.

Third, the Christian Atheist is unsure of God's love. They prefer to hide under the shadow of "unloved" instead of basking in the sunshine of "beloved."

Fourth, the Christian Atheist don't really believe in praying. Believing in God must be synonymous with prayerful people. We pray because we have a living relationship with God. Not only that, Christians will choose to pray often and as regularly as possible. The Christian Atheist don't believe in the power of prayer and thus prayer is missing from their spiritual closet.

Fifth, the Christian Atheist don't trust God, thinking that God is unfair. They see the pain but fail to recognize God present with us in the pain. What they do not understand, they easily blame God.

Sixth, unforgiveness is a mark of the Christian Atheist. With this comes bitterness, hatred, rage, and revenge. Without believing a God of grace and forgiveness, one does not have the empowerment to do the same.

Seventh, the Christian Atheist do not think he can change. There is no hope. There is no possibility and thus no desire to change. Excuses and lies cloud the mind. They see their own problems being way too big for anyone (including God) to handle.

Eighth, the Christian Atheist is a classic worrier. Derived from the German word (wurgen) which is understood as "to strangle, constrict, choke," such people are so full of worries that they have no room to let God into their lives. As they worry, they try to take control and unwilling to let God help them. They distrust and despise God. They are unwilling and unwise.

Ninth, they are happiness fanatics.Their pursuit of happiness is their life's goal. They live such narcissistic lifestyles that if there is a God, such a God must help them be happy. They are unable to understand the true meaning of biblical happiness which is only in the Lord.

Tenth, money is their god. In their pursuit of wealth, they are unable to know the limits of making money. They are unable to understand the rationale of giving until it hurts. The idea of sacrificial giving is foreign to them.

Eleventh, the Christian Atheist does not share his faith. Evangelism and outreach are for others, not them. They are never ready to share the gospel, always ready to flee or find excuses to escape opportunities for witnessing Christ.

Twelfth, they say they believe in God but they shun the Church. Sometimes they even despise the Church. They forget that Church is not a group of successful and perfect people. Instead, they are discouraged to see imperfect people.

So What?
This book puts into words what many people are living in practice. It is a timely reminder that we need to let our faith do the talking and the walking. People say that Church has hypocrites. While it is true to some extent, it is high time to begin reducing the statistic. For the sake of the gospel of Christ and the Kingdom of God. Sometimes, books like this appear to be bashing the Church and Christians again. Do we need any tongue lashing? Aren't we already hard-pressed on every side by the worldly concerns and criticisms from an increasingly secular and sceptical world? How can such a book "Christian Atheist" be any helpful?

Perhaps, we can learn to approach it from the angle of humility. The first rule in the recovering person is to acknowledge one is powerless to help himself. One needs external assistance. More importantly, one needs God. See this book as an opportunity to do at least 3 things.

  1. Be reminded of our calling and identity as followers of Jesus. If we dare to call ourselves believers, dare ourselves to believe and to keep on believing. God is present whether we feel it or not. God is with us whether we know it or not. God is carrying us whether we are aware of it or not. 
  2. Be rebuked if we have not lived out our responsibilities. Love needs to be tough. When we are disobedient, we deserve to be reprimanded. Rather than taking a defensive stance, adopt a humble heart to learn, to improve, and to repent. 
  3. Be ready to start afresh. No point crying over spilled milk. What was done in the past cannot be undone. Do not wallow in past deeds but prepare to work on the future, beginning with the present.
One encouragement. The moment we repent and return to God, we are essentially killing two birds with one stone. A turn away from spiritual despondency toward spiritual dependency; from iniquity to intimacy; from fear to faith; and from rust to trust.


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