The Christian Atheist (Casual Christian Part 2)


The chorus of Casual Christian:  “I don’t wanna be, don’t wanna be a casual Christian.  I don’t wanna live don’t wanna live a lukewarm life.  But I want to light up the night, with an everlasting light.  I don’t wanna live a casual Christian life.”

That song ought to be one of the themes for Christians.  It needs to be our theme because too many Christians have become just that, casual in their Christianity, casual to point that many Christians have failed in what it means to be a Christian.  The song can help remind us of our commitment and the level of our commitment to Christ.

I asked by Facebook friends “What do you think it means to be a casual Christian?”

I received several responses:

  • There are the jokes, like, getting to dress casually at church
  • Others responded with things like lukewarm, lazy, informal in their faith, lacking intensity or zeal for their faith
  • But Robin Sigars, formerly with CIY, now senior minister with the Carterville Christian Church (Carterville, MO) responded that casual Christians are Christian Atheists.

So what exactly is a Christian-Atheist?

That term is an oxymoron.  It just seems like you are putting opposites together.  Like Democratic-Republican, or Socialist-Democracy, or Kansas-Missourian.

What is a Christian-Atheist?

  • Well, a Christian is one who has faith in God.  Someone who through conviction has put their faith in God and Christ.
  • And an Atheist is one who doesn’t believe there is a God.  They have no faith in God, no belief in Christ as Savior.

They are opposites, but the term Christian-Atheist is a descriptive term.  What does it describe?

Wipedia, an online dictionary defines Christian-Atheist as “one who doesn’t believe in God but attempts to live by Biblical morality.”

In other words, they are atheists whose values are Christian-like in character.  But that’s what the world’s definition is.  We are Christians.  We are believers so that doesn’t even begin to make sense to us; Not from a Biblical point of view, but that is what the rest of the world thinks a Christian-Atheist is.

Here is what a Christian-Atheist is and I hope that you’re not one; “Putting your faith in God, but still living as if everything is up to you, as if everything depends on you!”  “Believing in God but living as if he doesn’t exist.”

Old Testament Israel is living in much the same way and Jeremiah is praying to God about their faithlessness.  He says to God in Jeremiah 12:2 – “You are near to their lips but far from their mind”

What does that line “(God) You are near to their lips but their mind is far from you” (NASB) Mean?

[Excerpted from The Christian Atheist, beginning on page 17]

Hi, my name is Craig Groeschel, and I’m a Christian Atheist.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve believed in God, but I haven’t always lived like he exists. Today my Christian Atheism isn’t as large of a problem as it once was, but I still struggle with it. Like a recovering alcoholic careful never to take sobriety for granted, I have to take  life one day at a time.

You might think it’s odd for a pastor to struggle with living like there is no God. However, in my corner of the world, Christian Atheism is a fast-spreading spiritual pandemic which can poison, sicken, and even kill eternally. Yet Christian atheism is extremely difficult to recognize — especially by those who are infected.

My story illustrates the symptoms. I was born into a “Christian” family. We believed in God and attended church when convenient — and always on Christmas or Easter. And when we did attend, it was always boring. Some older man wearing what looked like a dress would stand at the pulpit for what seemed like forever, talking about stuff that didn’t make any sense to me. I remember counting how many times the preacher raised one hand in the air — fifty-three in one sermon may still be the world record. Even though I never carried a Bible to church, we did own a yellowish-gold Bible that was the size of a small U-haul truck and sat prominently on our living room coffee table. The pictures gave me warm, tingly, spiritual feelings, but the words were an impenetrable web of thees and thous. Two of my friends’ parents always made us pray before meals: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for this food.” It always bothered me that this prayer didn’t rhyme, even though it seemed like it   should, and wondered if it bothered God too. At my grandparent’s house, we prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let this food to us be blessed.”  Neither prayer mattered to me, but at least the second one actually rhymed.

He goes on to describe how he learned at age 8 in a VBS that he was going to hell and supposedly accepted Christ at that time.

  • In High School he was a hypocrite, going to church by himself, listening to messages and encouragements to be holy, but when Friday night rolled around, well…you know how it is.
  • In college, a Christian school, he had a great spiritual awakening, starting a Bible study in his dorm, passionate about leading people to Christ, and it was in those years that he for the first time believed in God and began to live like he is real.

Does any part of Craig Groeschel’s story resonate with you?  If it does, you might be a Christian-Atheist.

You’ve confessed Jesus as Lord, you’ve been baptized, you might have been full of energy and zeal for Christ and the church, but now it’s just religious ceremony and boring ritual, it’s obligation with little feeling and virtually no meaning for you anymore.  You’re just Christian in name but not in action?

That’s what it means to be a Christian Atheist.  You believe, but you don’t live like you believe.

Maybe Paul’s words help us understand better – Titus 1:16: They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny him.” NASB

Welcome to Christian Atheism, where people believe in God but live as if he does not exist.  Here’s why a person is a Christian-atheist.

 1)    They Don’t Know God

We know that roughly as many as 90-some percent of Americans say they believe in God.  But do that 90-some percent know God?

You can tell when someone who claims to believe in God, that they don’t know him when they call him the “Big Guy in the Sky,” or the “Man Upstairs.”  They believe in God, I guess, they know about God, some, I suppose, but they don’t KNOW God.  There is no closeness to God. No relationship with God.

Maybe you were closer to God than you are today?  You started out full of zeal and desire, pleasing God, serving him with excitement, learning God’s ways with every sermon and Bible study, but, your Christian life is like a slow leak in your car tire.  It takes a while, but eventually, your tire goes flat.  As it leaks and flattens, driving becomes more difficult, your gas mileage suffers, and your car drives squirrelly on the highway.

Slowly but surely over time your spiritual passion has quietly slipped away.  You pray less.  You barely read your Bible.  You are disinterested when people bring up spiritual things.  Church becomes a bore and a bother.  You just go to church and that’s all, if you go to church at all.  In fact, if you live with Biblical morals and values you do so out of habit, not out of faith.

We have got to face believing AND knowing God.  We have got to cross the line where we KNOW God and are close to him.  Right away, we want to look at three levels of closeness with God.

The 1st level, only knowing God by Reputation

You’ve heard stories from friends or your parents and you can tell a little about Noah and an Ark, or Moses crossing the Red Sea, or maybe Jonah and a big fish or a whale, or something, and of course Jesus birth and death but the details are a bit sketchy and maybe that’s about all.

You only know God by Bible stories that don’t really mean anything to you, but you don’t know God personally.  He is not your Father in heaven.  He is not even just a god out there.  He really means very little to you.  And so you gage and judge God by his reputation according to the stories you have heard.

The 2nd level, only knowing God by Memory

You have memories of church.  I can visit with you about church and you can tell me the day you were baptized, and about attending camps and revivals, maybe you’re an elder’s kid, or you were a deacon, or your grandma was a Sunday School teacher, or you taught SS, or the preacher’s kids were your best friends, but these are all just memories of the past.

And something upset you so you dropped out or even quit.  Someone said something, or did something and you left the church.  There was a church split and your parents took you somewhere else and you haven’t been back to church since you were 15 and that was 30 years ago and you just lost touch.

You say, “Oh yeah, I have good memories of church.”  But see, they are just memories of the past and you don’t know God today.

The 3rd level, Intimately Knowing God

The Bible talks about intimacy, especially the old KJV.  Adam knew Eve and she conceived and gave birth to a couple of babies, Cain and Abel.  The idea of intimacy is being one in marriage.  It’s more than I know about you, but I am now joined with you and you become one with the each other and you KNOW each other.

God wants us to know him with our whole life with that level of intimacy.

2)    They  Don’t Know God, but God is Near

Look at Deuteronomy 4:29

At the time when this passage was written, there is going to be a time when Israel will be going through great difficulty.  They will not be in their own land, they will be captives to other nations, having been taken away from their homes and their land and separated from the Temple and from God and in that day of captivity God says that when you look for me, you will find me.

God wants you to search for him wholeheartedly; as Jesus said, “with all your heart and soul and mind” (Matthew 22:37).

Look at Jeremiah 29:12-13

Israel is in captivity now and the Israelites are supposed to do what it takes to get along with their Babylonian neighbors and God wants them to know that he is there, he is with them.  “I am there.  I want a relationship with you.”

He wants to be close to you.

Go to Acts 17:27

Here is a sermon that is relevant today, right now.  God wants the nations to come to him.  But the nations have problems with Christians.

But you say to me; “I believe!  I believe Jeff. Isn’t that good enough?”  That is a fair question and it deserves an honest answer.

Turn with me in your Bibles, James chapter 2

Let’s hear the context.  There are scattered Christians that are saying all you have to do is believe.  Belief is all there is.  You’ve heard that, there are those who make the same claims today.  James has learned this and James is addressing their mistaken belief.

@James 2:17-19

What are we getting at here?  If you think you’ve got to have just an intellectual faith, you know, just possessing knowledge, God is saying to you today, you’ve got to show me your faith.

The demons believe in God and they’re scared.  They shake in fear of God and his judgment.  They are afraid.  They know their fate and they should be afraid.

Let me be totally up front with you right now.  If you only believe and that’s all, you don’t believe you have to be baptized, you don’t carry out acts of mercy, and you don’t and won’t reach out to others with the Gospel of Christ, if you have friends that are like this too, the demons are better off then you.

Let me tell you there are no atheists in hell (literal atheists or Christian-atheists).  Philippians 2 tells us that the day that Jesus comes back EVERY person will bow down and worship him and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord and that means that those who are not saved, even those who were atheist in this life will believe in who Jesus is.  But, it will too late for them.

If all you do today is say I believe, my friend, you’re in trouble.

If you are a Christian, are you who you say you?  You believe, James says you do well, so do the demons.  But that’s not good enough.  What have you done more than the demons?

CONCLUSION – THE SOLUTION

I’m not trying to condemn you, but you may be feeling guilt and shame at this point.  Let me help you here because you are wondering “how do you get out of this, out of being a Christian-Atheist?”

The answer is simple, but following through may be difficult.  Here it is: Show your faith, live the life of faith God has given you.  Here is how your faith is seen.

Show mercy

  • James says it’s about mercy.  @James 1:27.  True religion is to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keeping oneself from being polluted by the world.
  • Micah told us what the Lord God said (6:8), the Lord REQUIRES that you act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with your God.

Be holy

  • Peter emphasized we are to be holy as the Lord our God is holy @1 Pet. 1:15.
  • Purity, righteousness, being sanctified, consecration, and being separate (from the world) are words that describe holiness.

Be evangelistic, reaching out with Jesus to make disciples of all people

  • Jesus commanded the apostles to teach us to obey what he had commanded them @Matt. 28:19, and he commanded them to go, make disciples and those who were scattered with the persecution preached the word wherever they went @Acts 8:4.

Are you obedient?

  • John says we know we have come to know God if we keep his commandments @1 John 2:3.

If the fruit of faith and obedience are not evident in your life, you are living a Christian Atheist! You can claim “I’m a Christian” all day long, but if you live as if there is no God and in fact you live as if everything depends on you, you are a Christian Atheist!  I should be able to see your faith by your actions and so should everyone else!

Being a Christian-Atheist is as if you are living in captivity.  You are a Christian, but for whatever reason you have settled into a faith without action, you are captive to a Godless way of living and doing.  God was with the Israelites in their captivity, and when they were ready to seek God with all their hearts, God would hear them and they would find him.

If you are living in the modern captivity without obedience, without the fruit that shows you are a follower of Christ, a child of God, God is still there.  He is waiting for your total surrender to him and his commands, to live the way Christ showed.

And that is the invitation.  To commit yourself to Christ and get busy being Christ-like.

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4 thoughts on “The Christian Atheist (Casual Christian Part 2)

  1. Actuall Atheists are Atheists because theire is more evidence for evolution than religeon [ask and i will explain myself, not because they are too lazy to follow the bible

  2. This is my children and many others who have grown up in the church. I was a first generation christian, my born again experience was life changing at 17. My transformation is on going. My husband who led me to Christ was a many generation believer with missionarys in his family and even he had to figure out how to live by being led and not live by formula. But I will add, in our sin and being led through temptation, resisting and fighting is the path to truth. It is not an indicator of unbelief but a wounded soul doing their best. If there is conviction and movement forward take that person by the hand and help them along. I work with abuse victims, the addicted and the down trodden. They need a hand and not shame. The church as a whole does not do this well. It is messy; takes one out of their comfort zone. In this we forget there is an enemy at war for their souls. Get to know a person even if they don’t look the part, there may just be a jewel in there with a passion to serve and need someone to bring them to the foot of the cross. It is all about relationship not labels.

    • Gretchen, thank you for your response. If this message came across as trying to guilt people into change, I am sorry. That is unintended. The message was a challenge to evaluate our lives regularly and avoid the pitfalls of being a casual Christian and in this case a Christian atheist. I appreciate your testimony and your comment. God bless you. Jeff

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