Saturday, October 27, 2012

Book Review: the Christian atheist

What does it mean to call oneself a “Christian” today?  I imagine that the number of variations in answers would be equal to the number of people who respond “yes” when they are asked if they self-identify as a “Christian.”  And can a person who calls themself a Christian also be an atheist, someone who simultaneously believes that God does, and does not, exist?  While this latter possibility may be rare, as far as one person saying that both Christianity and atheism are true for them, Craig Groeschel believes that such a combination is the functional faith of many Christians.  These are the people he writes for in the Christian atheist, which bears the apt subtitle: Believing in God but Living as If He Doesn’t Exist.

Groeschel speaks from personal experience, although his credentials wouldn’t make you think so.  He is the founding and senior pastor of a multi-site church in Oklahoma.  He is also married and the father of six children.  Yet as he takes a look at his own life he sees many of the same issues of professing belief in one thing but living in a different manner in his daily life, something that he also sees within the congregation he pastors and in Christians throughout the United States. 

Each of the chapter titles begins “When you believe in God but…”  The “but” demonstrates the disconnect between faith and an aspect of life, such as “…but don’t really know Him,” “…but are ashamed of your past,” “…but not in prayer,” “…but still worry all the time,” and “…but not in His church.”  Groeschel walks through each of his topics, demonstrating the difference between how people often live and what they believe.  He then discusses what the Bible says about the topic and then provides examples of what life could look like, examples that call his readers to a more mature expression of their own faith in God.  And he does this all in a manner that I find to be very gentle and pastoral. 

One example is found in the chapter on dealing with the shame of one’s past, where he writes, “We are not our sins.  And we’re also not what others have done to us.  Rather, we are who God says we are: his children.  We are forgivable.  We are changeable.  We are capable.  We are moldable.  And we are bound by the limitless love of God.” (52) 

Groeschel has a humble tone and knows well each of the areas he discusses, from both his own personal life and the lives of those he shepherds in his congregation.  His guidance is practical and faithful to Biblical teaching.  I could go on and on but instead will close, giving this book an unreserved recommendation.  If there is a disconnect in your own life as a Christian, Groeschel has written something that will likely help on your journey.  Even if he doesn’t address your specific issue a thoughtful reader will be able to adapt his wisdom to their particular situation.  And in the end it is not really so much about our personal faith but the way in which we bear witness to God, they ways in which we serve and glorify Him in the world.

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