I have a friend who is an atheist. We grew up together. He is a great guy. Solid. Responsible. Straightforward. Honest. I respect him. I trust him. We get along great. Even after my conversion from an agnostic to Christianity, we remained friends while most of those I knew from my old life scurried into obscurity from my life.
Over the years we have had many conversations about the merits of each of our faiths – his being that there is no God and that we are just the result of random selection through a long evolutionary process, and mine being that there is a God who created everything, that He loves us, and He has a plan for our lives.
It’s been an evolutionary process for my friend in his thinking to even begin to believe that there may be something like that of intelligent design when it comes to the ‘evolution’ of the universe. And, it has been an even longer evolutionary process in his thinking to be willing to concede that my life changed so dramatically upon my conversion and that it would be hard to fake something so conversely different from my old lifestyle as he has watched for some thirty years now. In one of our recent conversations, as I often do, I invited him to attend a church service with me. He lives in another city, so for me to offer such a thing, he knew that I would be driving a few hours or more in order for this to happen. Here is what he said in response to my invitation. It went something like this.
“David, I appreciate your friendship and admire your zeal for what you believe. I really believe that you believe what you are talking about. And, from what I have seen of your life, with few exceptions over the years, you have lived what you have been preaching to me for years. But, I need to tell you that from what I have seen of the vast majority of people who say they are Christians, their lives do not demonstrate anything that reflects what they say they believe and follow. As you say, you have experienced a ‘supernatural change in your life,’ I don’t see any evidence of any supernatural change or a miracle working god or a god that supernaturally changes people in such a way that they don’t do the very same things that the world is doing. From the looks of what I have seen, there is no evidence of the god you say you serve in the lives of people who tell me they are Christian.”
Pastor Bill Johnson said, “Many Christians practice practical atheism; they believe in the existence of God, but they turn to the ways of man to solve their problems.” He is exactly right too. It’s all around us in our daily decisions. We relegate to man what God desired for us to look to Him and Trust Him for – whether it is healing, finances, our emotional struggles, broken relationships, or our children.
And equally, it’s not that we – the church at large – just turn to man for solving our problems, but we live (whether publicly or in our private lives) as natural/un-regenerated man. It is so in many instances the same in the eyes of the world by our day to day lifestyle and decisions, where we socialize, who we socialize with, and what we do that by every outward appearance looks like we are just another human being living in the world with nothing that outwardly differentiates our lives from that of a lost man.
We lie, gossip, back bite, meddle in other people’s lives, pass judgment on those we either don’t understand or don’t agree with. We go to bars, drink in public, cuss, run towards sin at times, live in unrepentant sin, lack compassion towards those in need, and act unethically in our business dealings. Indeed, the Church at large lives as if there were no God – as practical atheists. There is nothing different between how we act and how the world acts, at least to an onlooking world who is looking for the hope of something better than what the world offers.
As practical atheists, we justify our ungodliness with mindsets like “we’re only human,” “well, no one is perfect,” “everyone else is doing it,” or “I don’t make a habit of it,” and thus, we allow sin to eat away at our spiritual hearts until our conscience is seared and we have no more within us in the world’s eyes than a lost man, ergo we have become the apostate church.
My GOD, please forgive me for being no different in action and deed than the average atheist, and free me from my complacency to let my life shine with the love and power of the Risen Savior.