A bit of a strange contrast today, in my aggregator. Clearly, Christians have taken notice of the growing numbers of atheists, and have seen the need to… do… well, something. Our first attempt comes out of San Antonio, TX, where they ask the musical question
Ever wonder what atheists truly believe and how you could be a better friend and witness to them?
Not a bad start, actually. This could be an introduction to a presentation by actual atheists, don’t you think? Which would be a real first step toward understanding. Let’s read on!
Join us for our Unpacking Atheism simulcast with Lee Strobel, Mark Mittelberg, and William Lane Craig.
Oh. Three Christian apologists. I have to wonder, even if they are being scrupulously honest, what sorts of differences exist between their view of “what atheists truly believe” and, you know, what atheists truly believe. Anyway, you can show up for a live simulcast, for fifteen bucks, if you are among the first 300 to register.
Oh, look! If you click to the registration page, the description of the event changes–no more being a better friend here:
Atheism is on the rise. If you haven’t been confronted by it yet, you will be. Your children are already being challenged by it. The effects of it are seeping into our culture and, increasingly, into the church. We must confront this challenge! We need to be ready–and help our church members become ready—to not only “give an answer” (I Pet. 3:15), but also to “take every thought captive” for Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).
Yes, these are precisely the people I want to tell me “what atheists truly believe”.
But you know? There is hope. Our other example of an attempt at understanding atheism comes from the [D]mergent blog; it’s a thoughtful essay by a Christian minister, whose first response to the New Atheism was… to read up on it, and on science.
Over the past several years I have spent a lot of time becoming acquainted with the New Atheism and the critical responses to it. My bookshelves, and more recently my Kindle’s memory, are full of books about this matter. A topic closely related to it, the relationship between faith and science, also occupies a good amount of space. I believe for the church to move faithfully into the future the matter of the relationship between science and faith, and the growing number of those who claim no faith or belief in God, is something we must try to fully understand and engage.
Atheism is also a personal matter for him; he has lost a couple from his congregation, because they now consider themselves atheists/agnostics. Another member of his congregation, who attends regularly and participates, is a declared atheist. Having an atheist as an active member of his congregation has framed the question differently for this writer.
I won’t take the space to critique the new atheism, or present any of the critical responses to it. ( To clarify, I do believe in God and have some philosophical troubles with atheism.) It is simply true that more and more people in the Western world are identifying as non-believers, With such people, if they want, is it even possible for them to have a place in the church. I guess I am asking, can someone who doesn’t believe in God find room to live among the people of God?
Twenty years ago, I would have firmly answered, “No. It is not possible.” But over the past two decades, because of my studies and my life experiences, my own understanding of God has changed a good bit and I have become more grace-filled and understanding toward those who don’t believe like I do and toward those who don’t believe at all.
Recognizing a change in the culture, he could have reacted against it as today’s first example is doing, but he accepted it as part of a new reality.
I have come to understand the Christian faith no longer as adherence to a certain belief system, but primarily as way of life rooted in the teachings of Jesus, a way of life rooted in love, grace and the struggle for peace and justice.
Understanding the Christian faith in this way, allows us to partner with any and all people, who wish to pursue the same kind of world. I may call it the realm of God, they may call it something else, but together we call it hope.
His essay is worth considerably more than the fifteen bucks a head the simulcast is going to charge, but it’s freely available right there at the link.