I’m about to say something that will probably prove offensive to two groups of people. Sorry – not sorry. Since I know it ahead of time, and am saying it anyway…. (Kind of like the deer that was eating my roses)
It occurs to me that there is virtually no difference between the atheist and the religious extremist. Sure, one denies the existence of God, and the other declares the existence of God. But after that, the real differences begin to dissolve into nothing more significant than the differences of opinion on any given topic.
Regardless of the many corollaries both might argue would prove there is a radical difference between them, when you get to the heart of the matter, those views, opinions, corollaries and “facts” all dissipate into insignificance. So, what is my so-called heart of the matter?
They both are trying to live life on the basis of what they perceive humans are capable of accomplishing. One claims to believe in God, but puts his faith in the ability of man of man to be righteous. The other claims to not believe in God, and puts his faith in the ability of man to be good (whatever that may be in the view of the individual). In essence, though, it still comes down to human effort in both cases.
The Biblical perspective, in a nutshell, which both the religious extremist and the atheist deny by their actions and choices, is “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for He who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6); and, “As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6).
At the risk of oversimplifying, I have found in discussions with atheists, two primary sticking points with religion:
- The Law, and
- Religious people who try to live by the Law.
The Law, or more generally, the Old Covenant in the Bible, had one key purpose. The Law is a teacher of one key lesson. It is meant “to lead us to Christ so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:25). The Law declared a standard of living to which man should strive to attain. None could. Few really tried. Both before and after the Law was given to Moses, it was faith that brought men into right relationship with God. The purpose of the Law was to demonstrate that no one could be perfect or please God apart from a faith relationship with Him. Trying to live up to standard that cannot be attained leads to a lot of grief. Being taught in church that you have to live up to it to please God, leads a lot of people to reject religion altogether.
On top of that, you add a bunch of religious people who are convinced they have to live up to that standard and so should everyone else. They cram their views down the throats of anyone that comes in reach. Some, through history have committed great injustices, crimes and immoral acts in the name of spreading their religions (not just Christianity). I can understand why many reject religion altogether. However, I find that those who choose to reject religion, can get just as “religious” in their beliefs and the spreading of their view points.
So, stop it. Just stop. The only way to live the life Jesus describes is to just stop. Stop trying to resist God. Stop trying to prove that humanity has the ability to be “good.” That’s why man needs situation ethics. If you can’t be good enough, then allow the situation to dictate what “enough” is. Stop trying to please God. Stop doing religious things in order to be righteous or holy. Just stop it! You cannot do it in your own strength.
The New Covenant declares we can please God! We do it by seeking Him on the basis of faith. That pleases Him, and He rewards the “effort” by being found; by giving us what we are seeking – Himself. And, since that is the way we get into relationship with Him, it is also the way we live in relationship with Him. As you have received Him, so walk in Him. The way you get in is the way you go on.
The way you get into the Kingdom is the way you go on in the Kingdom. You rest in His work on your behalf. You live by faith. You live by grace. You go to the cross daily and die to yourself and to your desire to live by your own means and strength. You go to the resurrection and find in the living Lord One who is willing and working to accomplish His will through You. You work, but you do it in His strength, in His ability, by His enabling. You learn to trust Him.
There is the atheist who claims God doesn't exist. There is the practical atheist who lives as though God doesn't exist. There is abundant life in a loving God who is, and is willing to be found by those who seek Him. Click To Tweet