Opinions on faith and life

Consequences

2009-07-13

Surfing the net today I came across a very sad testimony from an atheist claiming to have been a Christian until not long ago. I hope that in commenting on this article that the author and others in similar circumstances may rethink all of this, because eternity is a long time to have regrets.

I did truly believe in God for most of my life and worshiped and prayed to him daily. I believed he was at work in my life at all times and using me to touch other people’s lives.

Believing in God is not salvation (James 2:19). The Jews of Jesus’ day believed in the God of the Old Testament, yet they too needed to be saved. They worshiped God, they prayed, they felt as the Greeks did (Acts 17:28) that they lived and moved in God’s presence. But they were required, when Jesus came, to accept Him as Messiah; to have one was to have the other, and to lack one was to lack the other (1 John 2:22-23).

Last fall, I finally moved past guilt and admitted to myself that I no longer believe in Jesus or the god of the Bible. Surprisingly it was a relief. Not because I wanted to run wild and sin freely, but because I no longer felt the weight a Christian carries. The weight of guilt, unworthiness and fear of god’s judgement.

Jesus said that His burden was light, so anyone carrying a heavy burden is not following Jesus. This rejection of the gospel is what happens when evangelists, preachers, etc. dangle sinners over the fires of hell and try to scare them into heaven. Instead, as I’ve written often, we should emphasize the fact that God wants us to be reconciled to Him (2 Cor. 5:16-21). Sin is certainly the reason we were alienated from God, and Jesus paid the ultimate price to rob sin of its power and purchase the gift of salvation for any and all who would accept it. A person who understands this and accepts it is a person who carries the lightest burden, who lives in gratitude and love, who rejoices like a child finally adopted. “Perfect love drives away fear” (1 John 4:18), so we know that someone who lives in fear of God’s punishment is out of relationship with Him.

The list of 20 grievances against God are typical atheistic fare, but I’ll comment on just a few.

Throughout history, Christians have justified horrific actions by the Bible and its teaching.

Professing Christians have done that. And they did it in clear violation of the Bible’s teachings, especially the New Testament. Yet atheists never seem to focus this accusation on Islam, whose Quran teaches it explicitly (and I would be willing to bet it has a tiny bit to do with death threats, but that’s just me).

The only reason I was a Christian was because I was indoctrinated into the religion as a child as a result of the culture and region of the world in which I was born.

Being raised as a Christian does not make one a Christian. Being indoctrinated is not being saved. Yet this is what happens all too often in Christian homes. The parents either take or send the children to “church services” or “Sunday school” and then wonder why this externally-imposed “faith” is rejected when the kids leave home. The churches are filled with these cultural “Christians”.

Christians are not at all ethically or morally different from non-Christians.

Mark Driscoll, are you paying attention?

Today, powerful church leaders steal, lie and molest young children. The church repeatedly attempts to cover up these atrocities, only to reluctantly apologize as a last resort.

Southern Baptist Convention, are you listening?

What we’re seeing in this sad report are the consequences of a fear-based evangelism, a very ironic term since the Greek word means “good message”. What’s good about telling people what low, worthless scum they are? And if they are such, why would Jesus have died for them? Did Jesus not die for beloved creatures, for those made in His own image? They are lost and estranged, not vile and literally dead.

Please refer to my article Go To Heaven! and its links for details on all this. We are responsible for telling the world about the GOOD thing Jesus did for us all, not focusing on the BAD things people do. A man-centered message is only that; let’s make it Jesus-centered. Lives are at stake.

9 Comments

Lin

Curt Daniels preached a sermon called "The Problem". In it he said something I have thought for a while so I was so glad to hear an evangelist say it. He said that folks accuse the church of being full of hypocrites. Daniels says that is true so why aren’t we doing something about it?

Paula Fether

That’s a good question, Lin. But I always add that there are hypocrites among atheists too. ;-)

Stickler

"Christians are not at all ethically or morally different from non-Christians."

Paula’s response:

Mark Driscoll, are you paying attention?

LOL! ROTFLOL!

Stickler

This is really good Paula! Thanks!

Paula Fether

Hey, he provides such good material, it’s easy!

Tanx. :-)

Janice

In my part of the world I think a major problem is the way we teach children about the faith, especially in mainstream denominations. We don’t give kids reasons to believe. We don’t do apologetics. We give them moral instruction using the Bible as our resource.

In 2007/8 I taught RI (religious instruction) to kids aged 8-10 at a local state primary school. The materials were produced by the education department (and, presumably, by trained teachers, but that’s not saying much these days) of the wealthiest and most conservative Anglican diocese in this country. In the end I couldn’t stand what felt like a waste of my time any more and quit.

For one thing, a series of lessons were on Jesus’ parables. You have to be capable of abstract thought to understand parables but kids that age are almost all still in the stage of concrete thought. For another thing, the Bible stories are taught in no sort of chronological order. You can do a bit on, say, Ruth and Deborah and Barak and then move on to Paul’s visit to Philippi and then to Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus. All over the place!

Years ago, when I was given Baptist materials to use, it was even worse. The moralising was intense and the use of Scripture was almost entirely peripheral. I really don’t know why anyone, supposedly a Christian, should expect exhortations to children to "be good" to be effective in bringing them to a saving knowledge of Christ. Don’t they know we’re all born sinners?

In 2005/6 I adapted New Tribes Mission materials for younger children to teach a junior high-school aged Sunday School class at another church. The thing that got me is that it took us 18 months just to get through the relevant parts of Genesis (month on, month off - so 9 months in total - that’s because I was done with missing out, for extended periods, on getting any teaching myself. I’m not sure how you do Sunday School in the US but here it’s basically a way of removing children from the congregation and giving them something to do while the Bible lessons are read and the minister preaches his sermon).

If I could find good, suitable, resources to use to teach children the story of salvation chronologically I’d be back volunteering in the schools in a flash. I say ’suitable’ because the New Tribes Mission stuff relies heavily on role-playing skits and that’s just not something that can be done in half an hour, once a week. Any recommendations are very welcome.

Paula Fether

Some churches have a Sunday School hour for all ages and then separate "church services" for children and adults, while others have two sessions of both SS and "worship" so people can choose whether to go to SS first or second. All sorts of arrangements.

But above all, nobody wants disruptive children in their "serious" meetings.

Now I do agree that young kids won’t get anything out of a long sermon and periods of absolute silence, but the big question is whether adults should be doing those things in the first place.

I’ve written many rants about the typical SS (see the Scribd link on my Downloads page especially Churchianity, as well as articles here) and "worship service". I agree with you that "Christian education" is largely ineffective and wasteful. But what can we expect when most churches will take any willing volunteer who can read a "teacher’s guide" and make them responsible for training others?

We have to go back to basics and first of all remember the gospel of reconciliation. A person who is reconciled with God, as opposed to merely believing He exists and must be placated, will want to find out what pleases Him. That should be the primary function of SS. And the Bible is not a children’s book, but a collection of books on history, prophecy, poetry, and doctrine. It is a worldview at the very least, and the secular world spends all of a person’s childhood indoctrinating them in their worldview. But what do Christians do? We just tell them to be good, as you mentioned.

So we need Christian leaders who remember the gospel, who have studied the Bible in depth, who will pass on their wisdom to others. We have a lot of work to do.

Lin

"I really don’t know why anyone, supposedly a Christian, should expect exhortations to children to “be good” to be effective in bringing them to a saving knowledge of Christ. Don’t they know we’re all born sinners?"

Very true! The very basics are not being taught to children in most churches and bible stories are ’sanitized’ to make them appropriate for children but the adult materials are not much better! We tend to only hear about God’s love and very little about God’s wrath. Or what it means to be saved and sanctified.

I think we should trust the Holy Spirit and teach our kids exactly what is in scripture. That is what I am doing. I use a simple translation like the Good News bible to read the OT to her...and yes, we have to stop and explain a lot of things like circumcision, etc. But she understands sin and the characters that are always shown to kids as heros had serious sin that God dealt with. How many kids have heard that God declared David’s child would die because of his sin with Bathsheba? Or that God sent an evil spirit into Saul because of his sin? Or that God had a lot of work to do with Abraham and Sarah BEFORE He blessed them? Or that God allowed Satan to ruin Job to prove his faithfulness?

They know nothing of the True God. And because of that, they have no idea of how much our sin seperates us from God. And as Paula said, it is about reconciliation with God through the Blood of Jesus Christ. Without the full truth, that blood is cheapened.

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