Thursday, June 27, 2013

Book Review: The Christian Atheist

The Christian Atheist: Believing in God But Living As If He Doesn't Exist. Craig Groeschel. 2010. Zondervan. 256 pages.

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.

The Christian Atheist reminded me a good deal of Erwin Lutzer's Ten Lies About God and How You Might Already Be Deceived. Except it might be about the lies you're telling yourself about your life or faith. Stephen Charnock said several centuries ago, "A God forgotten is as good as no God to us." That definition is almost as good as Groeschel's own.

The twelve chapters:

  • When You Believe in God But Don't Really Know Him
  • When You Believe in God But Are Ashamed Of Your Past
  • When You Believe in God But Aren't Sure He Loves You
  • When You Believe in God But Not in Prayer
  • When You Believe in God But Don't Think He's Fair
  • When You Believe in God But Won't Forgive
  • When You Believe in God But Don't Think You Can Change
  • When You Believe in God But Still Worry All the Time
  • When You Believe in God But Pursue Happiness at Any Cost
  • When You Believe in God But Trust More in Money
  • When You Believe in God But Don't Share Your Faith
  • When You Believe in God But Not In His Church

The book's greatest strength is its casualness, its openness; this nonfiction book is very reader-friendly. The book deals with a variety of subjects. Every single reader will be in a different place in his/her life, and the book, I believe, will minister accordingly. I think this book will meet the needs of readers. I think some chapters will definitely speak to readers. It just won't be the same chapter(s) for every reader. I think this can be a good thing. It is hard to outgrow a book like that.

I suppose one could argue that the book is so simple, so basic, that it shares nothing new with readers. But that isn't taking into account that sometimes people need someone to tell them OBVIOUS truths. Sometimes the person in need is the last to see what is "obvious" to others.

I felt the author came across as friendly--concerned, certainly, but friendly and not judgmental or condescending. The book is more a conversation, of sorts, than being talked at or preached at.

Perhaps the book's biggest weakness is its reliance more on stories and testimonies than on sharing Scriptures. Many of the theological books I read are saturated in Scripture--rich in God's Word. They speak truth, proclaim truth, teach truth--from the Word itself. The focus is perhaps more on God and less on our lives, our experiences, our trials and temptations. This book is focused on humanity, in a way. It places great value on human testimonies of their experiences with God. The theme of some chapters seem to be that you do God the greatest service when you share your stories about God, your testimonies, your answered prayers, your miracles with others. Tell of what God has done for you. People may be equally moved by seeing God working in your life than in hearing the gospel itself.

Favorite quotes:
Belief isn't the same as personal knowledge. For many people, the very idea that you could know God on a relational level seems unlikely, unrealistic, unattainable. (33)
When we let shame control our actions, we cannot know God, because we cannot live our lives for him. Christian Atheists may live as if God doesn't exist because, in their cycle of shame, it doesn't seem as if he does. (51)
We Christian Atheists can easily believe that God loves other people; we just can't comprehend how or why he'd love us. We hide our real selves from other people to ensure they won't reject us. How much more we hide from God! (60)
Christian Atheists believe in God and even believe that God loves people, but always other people, who are less sinful or more important. (65)
As a parent, I'd much prefer my young children to climb up into my lap and speak honestly. "Daddy, I'm afraid of the dark. Would you help me?" Imagine the same child standing before me, addressing me thus: "Grand Omnipotent Father of the Household, I beseech your presence. Great provider of all I have, grant me thy presence through the long watches of the night, for lingering fears beset me--verily, until dawn's first rays at last light my heart with hope." Odd picture. But that's exactly how many of us pray to our heavenly Father--or think we have to pray. (81-2)
When we're told to pray for those who've hurt us, I'm convinced our prayers are as much for ourselves as they are for the prayers for others may or may not change them. But my prayers always change me. (119)
Many Christian Atheists live year after year under the illusion that we simply can't change. Once we've forgiven ourselves for past mistakes, some surrender to present problems, never even hoping to overcome them. We may openly, even proudly, believe in God, but we honestly don't believe he can change us. (126)
The challenge is that many believe heaven is the default destination when, in fact, the opposite is true....if we embraced the reality that many are traveling toward an eternal hell and few are on the road to eternal life, don't you think we'd overcome some of our Christian Atheism and reach out to those who are walking on the broad path? (202)
God is not calling us to go to church; he is calling us to be his church, the hope of the world. (221)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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