A friend initiated his own new belief of NO God to a college “church boy” 3 years ago. He had never questioned the idea before then.
My response, albeit scattered, follows:
Define “god”: noun
1.the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe.
2.the Supreme Being considered with reference to a particular attribute: the God of Islam.
3.( lowercase ) one of several deities, especially a male deity, presiding over some portion of worldly affairs.
4.( often lowercase ) a supreme being according to some particular conception: the god of mercy.
5.Christian Science . the Supreme Being, understood as Life, Truth, love, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Principle.
I assume this means not believing in a creator of the world, a being who created morality or a simultaneously just and merciful being. Some of the arguments below explain the why of this reasoning, but we are definite “words” people in our culture, so what I say may mean one thing and to you another. This can be good or bad, honestly, but it’s a huge result of relativism and postmodernity.
There’s many different forms of “not believing.” Agnosticism is really just apathy towards a god. It says “it” doesn’t matter and it isn’t a big deal for us to concern ourselves with One. By definition:
1.a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience. Synonyms: disbeliever, nonbeliever, unbeliever; doubter, skeptic, secularist, empiricist; heathen, heretic, infidel, pagan.
2.a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.
3.a person who holds neither of two opposing positions on a topic: Socrates was an agnostic on the subject of immortality.
Additionally on the topic of agnosticism, we can be agnostic towards things other than God or religion. Note definition 3 above.
Ahh, the buzz word in our culture that has saturated public arenas in the last fifteen years. Its opposite to Christians is “Truth.” When you throw that “absolute” before Truth, you’re even more a “solid believer” and find yourself even more opposed to folks who aren’t (yet) Jesus followers. Maybe it’s enlightenment or maybe it’s our culture of “telling off people” being equated with being a winner, but whatever it is we think that we can argue our way to proving someone wrong. In fact, what I’m doing right now is an example. Being a Fuller grad and a somewhat seasoned listener and even debater, I truly believe in terms of “winning” people over it’s more about their discovery and God the Spirit entering in to the dialogue. Sermons and great speakers are “in” right now. While many are changed, encouraged and convicted by them, it takes an open heart and situations (God’s sovereignty) bringing them to a place of readiness. Debates, discussions, conversations and more can till the soil of their skepticism, but I don’t know of any situation where someone who was aggressively against God or Jesus suddenly in the middle of a debate admitted that they were wrong and the other was right. Call it pride, call it the emotional beings we are or whatever, but it’s a reality. Can it happen? You bet! Will it? I believe with prayer the ground can be tilled and eventually God can chip away at the ice of unbelief. But I doubt instantaneously
So back to tolerance. I look more at tolerance in terms of respect. I do believe we need to respect all people, tying the “equality” argument with this. The people, yes. Their decisions and trusting them, not at all. I don’t respect the decision for a man to commit adultery against his wife. I don’t respect the decision for a man to engage in sexual activity with a child. If we are tolerant to everything it can lead to anarchy. I hate to go there with that, but if you follow the line of reason, it could. I honestly hate when people say this arrogantly and angrily, but I’ll note that below.
While Christians see the opposite of tolerance as Truth, pre/post-Christians see the opposite as “hating.” That’s why they are so passionately against Christians. Ironically they end up hating “us,” but we all contradict ourselves somehow. What WE need to be cautious of is judging. I’ve heard too many sermons flat-out condemning folks who are sinners and honestly, it’s embarrassing. I think the approach to speaking on these things ought to be: comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted. We love, love, love sinners. We speak the Truth in love. Paul says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Col. 4:6, ESV). We don’t compromise the Truth, but speak it gracefully and with “salty” points that add “flavor” and “spice” to our words. Again this can only be done by the hand of God the Spirit. But I think our self-control must be tempered in this. Speaking towards repentance, yes, speaking as if we are God, no.
I don’t treat my kids equally. I love them immensely and if I were to quantify it, certainly it’d be the same (granted you can’t define infinity). But I don’t treat them equally. One kid will melt in my words of praise. The smile I get brings tears to my eyes and fills me with a joy unspeakable. Another is a cuddler beyond any I know. To say I’m proud of them means not nearly as much as a tight hug. Still another responds most favorably to time spent with them. How I choose to love them varies immensely. I am aware of these tendencies when I correct them as well. I know what will sting when I need to correct them. How they respond is the shaping and molding into who I believe God want them to be. It’s my responsibility to put them into a position to become who I believe God wants them to be.
Does God love all equally? I think you can re-read the paragraph above and find the exact same answer with God’s treatment of us. He loves us infinitely and yet knows how to love us best individually. How we respond is still our choice.
The caution in treating “issues” with equality is that a.) we just don’t treat issues equally, and b.) not all issues (sins) are equal from what I read in the Bible. We are far more harsh culturally to a drunk driver than we are to someone who “just” has an affair. An assaulter outside a bar is much more “tolerated” than a child molestor. And adult pornography is accepted and flaunted while child pornography is sick and wrong. How is it that 18 year old girls are “legal” to showcase their bodies while to a 17 year old it’s horrific?
The two biggest debates in our culture are that of abortion and same-sex marriage. Note how I instinctively wrote the two words that I’m against? Folks on the other side of the coin might reference me as anti-gay and against women’s rights. Some see the coins as pro-choice while the opposing side sees it as pro-life; and pro-equality (progressiveness) versus pro-traditional marriage . Both are “for” something, but they are also vehemently against.
See, we don’t see “equal” in our culture. What defines this? Some say our laws and some say our “gut instinct” and others (like me) would say the Word of God, the Bible. Atheists/Agnostics find this the most skeptical thing of all.
How can one collection of books and letters be a source of moral Truth for all ages to come? I mean, laws in every country are adapted over time to meet the needs of the culture and to keep people “safe” and [over]”protected.” And if Christians argue against some things as cultural and other things as Truth, it seems so inconsistent. Take for example 1 Corinthians 6. In the same chapter it says that Christians ought not to have lawsuits against each other (v. 5-8). Later it says that sexual immorality is wrong (13-20). There are lawsuits continuously between Christians and we don’t talk too much against this. But we are all about condemning and judging sexual sins! This source behind the issues at hand has nothing to do with the issues. It’s about the heart. We aren’t to judge, but we are to love. Speak the truth, again, but in love. Where is our heart if someone gets pregnant outside of marriage and we aren’t willing to comfort and love them first? Certainly we need to draw boundaries if they aren’t willing to repent, but it needs to be about love first. I believe our culture has done a marvelous job of tainting the heart behind Christians trying to speak truth in love, but we haven’t been too angelic about it, giving them cause to say we’re judges.
To remain on this particular “issue,” I must be clear that Scripture does speak against sexual immorality as different (worse?) than any other sin: “every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (v. 18). There’s a reason why sexual sins are elevated. Again, God isn’t being “equal.” Sure, a sin is a sin and something that separates us from God, but clearly sexual sins are different.
The “inconsistent” treatment of biblical issues continues throughout the New Testament: marriage (1 Corinthians 7), women wearing jewelry (1 Peter 3:1-6), homosexuality (Romans 1:18-32), divorce (Matthew 5:31-32), and more. Speaking the Truth in love. At the right timing and saturated with prayer. . A great model for this is Paul Tripp’s “love, know, speak, do,” as written in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand. You love the person all the way through and you understand where they are coming from with whatever you might need to “confront.” Loving continues throughout the process. The “know” phase is really listening, not forming judgements and allowing yourself to potentially sympathize and know how to pray for an opportunity to speak truth. I believe the love comes before the awareness of the issue – people know if you love them or not. After you’ve prayed, showing them the text is key. Hearing their response you can allow or help them to repent to God and then the key is “do.” You need to help them after that. Follow-up questions is key. It’s really a recovery model from this point on. While you might not be able to be there through and through for them every day, it’s good to follow up when you do see them and when you think of them.
Sometimes folks will respond to your “speak” with defensiveness that divides your relationship. Hopefully they will know you love them, hence why establishing the love first is key. But sometimes it doesn’t work out. Continual prayer and love is the best you can do. You never know what kind of seed your “speak” planted in their hearts. Pride, pain and conviction elicit all kinds of responses.
Influences of Change in Belief
Man, it never ceases to amaze me how relationships are so key to life! So many Christian kids just aren’t strong enough in their faith to hold a strong conviction about what they really believe. They couldn’t defend or explain themselves to a first grader! They have no confidence & yet as long as they go to youth group mom and dad think they’ll be ok. This, of course, may not relate to this young man, but I think you know what I mean. Having worked with students around this for 10+ years, I still don’t have the answer other than to parent my kids as biblically as I know how & invest in them more than anything else. Our sacrifice to send them to a solid Christ-first school is invaluable to this. I know it.
The response Christian kids have to these “ah-ha” moments is typically one of two polars: search and search for what Truth is or just accept what the friend believes so as not to lose the friend. It’s my guess that the friendship is/was of greater value than the issue. Did he just believe in God along the way, or was Jesus his Lord? It’s easy for me to ask that because I don’t know him, but they’re honest questions and in an appropriate conversation fair questions.
He took a biology class which reaffirmed doubts. Evolution makes sense with experiments confirm life created from nothing.
This is tough. Was his only research from this class or did he really search out both sides? You ask any brilliant atheist or scientist and they have to admit that evolution is just a theory. They may believe it like we do the gospel, but it’s an act of faith – just like our beliefs are! Both sides will argue there’s more than enough evidence. I do my best not to get hung up in the creation/evolution debate as much as the intelligent design argument. It’s about God’s intentional order as opposed to chaos and chance. And further, it’s not about the science as much as the relationship with God.
It’s more likely that evolution will lead believers away from the faith than believers convincing others that intelligent design is the way and then them confessing Jesus as Lord. This is such a peripheral issue and dodging of the heart that Satan really uses it more of a distraction than anything else.
Much of his conclusions are from his own thought processes attempting to connect pieces and poke holes in Christianity. It does not appear he has specific research influences (scientists, popular atheists, bloggers, etc.), but more so a sum of doubts.
I can totally tell this is true of him. I know so many Christians whose source of information and truth is more facebook posts than Scripture itself (or even the news). And you can “pin” that! It won’t be re-pinned too well, but it’s true.
Justification for Belief:
Christianity is not fair.
Very true. We deserve hell. We deserve separation from God. We know it. We aren’t perfect. We are messed up. I’ve never known anyone to deny this truth. Rom. 3:23, Rom. 6:23. It’s about the paradoxical unworthy and amazing love of God.
It excludes to those who have never had a glimpse of knowledge of the Gospel. For example, how could the Christian God prepare a plan of salvation that never reached the North American Native Americans at the time of Christ’s life. They had no conceivable chance to know of God nor Jesus, yet, they are going to hell?
I have no idea how God will deal with them and the past is not my business – I’m not God. But because I realize what God has done for me, I recognize the need to tell others about it because of what it’s doing for me now and what I know it can do for others – beyond their cultural strongholds and beyond their doubt. It’s my responsibility to obey what I believe to be God’s Word (Mt. 28:18-20). Romans 1:18-22 (the beginning of the passage speaking clearly against homosexuality) speaks to this in what I believe to be a powerful way – a way that emphasizes worship of God himself versus pieces of wood.
Timothy Keller addresses this well in Reason for God.
If scripture describes those who never receive knowledge of God are to come to know Him through nature and the recognition of a great designer, could this possibly mean other religions are merely another interpretation of the the same God?
Another good question. The idea of monotheism was revolutionary to the nation of Israel. Let’s put ourselves in their shoes before God reveals Himself to them in Egypt:
Only one god? Not the moon, sun and possibly stars? You mean we don’t have to have sex with prostitutes and “spill” ourselves so that god might grant us favor with rain? No guessing as to what might please these gods? No more hoping we might give the proper aroma to god? I mean, last time we burnt the cow it rained and then the next time it didn’t, so what gives? You mean, there are certain moral laws we are to follow? And there’s laid out consequences as to how we deal with those who break the laws? Wow! This is awesome! It’s going to be hard to break our mindset from what we had, but this sure is easier in many ways – and certainly better!
Pre-Israel-in-Egypt, all nations looked to gods, whether the sun, stars and moon or other things like wood and leaders (emperors, kings). Almost every nation had multiple gods for different things (much like some eastern religions today). That YHWH would come and say He’s it was crazy! Yet He proved it time and again throughout the millennia. There is ONE god. And that is the God of Scripture. This is why we can’t just say all gods relate – because it’s inconsistent with the Bible as Truth. If we said this, it brings up a ton of contradictions.
If there is a God, how can he be so excluding of his diverse creation and other religions?
Dude, He’s god. He’s jealous and right. Always. God is perfect and doesn’t make mistakes. Who are we to say what and how he can do and say to how He does what He does? I think it’s the difference between seeing ourselves and our worldviews as right and understanding:
a.) it’s not about us and God doesn’t need us, and
b.) He is so absolutely Holy and we ought to fear/respect/be in awe of Him like no other. God’s response to Job in ch. 38 is a great response to this.
If the Bible can be interpreted in so many different ways, why don’t we interpret at the most loving and tolerant way possible?
I think I should do this with my marriage vows. I mean, if my wife isn’t meeting my needs maybe I should look elsewhere because it’s just not fair. I mean, it’s a covenant, but how I interpret it can vary, right? Honestly, when we get this far down in the argument, it sounds like whining on his part. I have kids. It’s both annoying and comical when they (try to) reason/argue with us as parents. It’s like they’ve spun out of control and they’re grasping straws. I think some of the other arguments below continue that trend and if he really wants answers he has to seek.
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways THEN I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chron. 7:14
Interpretation is very tricky and varies immensely (hence why so many different denominations). I do believe there is one way and I also believe I don’t know fully what it is. But with God’s help and the Spirit’s leading, I believe I can walk in the Truth. This being said, I do believe there are some clear rights and wrongs in Scripture that I’m willing to stand for/against because I believe I’m directed by God’s Spirit to do so (IN LOVE!)
Evolution examples as shown in Biology class.
How can God choose that some will believe and some will go to hell?
Tough question. Not fair. But I believe with all my gut that he allows us to follow Him or not. It’s also not fair that we DO get the opportunity to be forgiven. Grace and justice. It’s a divine paradox that God is. It goes back to His jealousy and His leading. I can only go by what I read in Scripture. Maybe God will allow all in heaven, but it’s not what I read – and I believe Scripture and the Person of God as all-authoritative.
Why did God wait so long to send Jesus? Why not have Eve give birth to Jesus?
Good questions – I truly believe God is a God of process in His sovereignty (control, big-picture view). God is all about timing. Sometimes we miss it and blow it, but if/when we trust and see from His perspective humbly, we see it in our lives and understand it from His viewpoint. He knows all things including all possibilities based on our choices. I think God allows us to choose. I can draw this better than explain it, but we aren’t robots. God just knows a ton! Look at every person in Scripture down Abraham’s line all the way to Jesus. Honestly I don’t get it sometimes (check out my blog on lions), but I’m not going to try and judge God.
Old Testament — how can an entire race be cursed through one person (Jews vs. Gentiles, Jacob vs. Esau)?
This is God’s choosing. He says it clearly in reference to Ishmael (Islams). But we have a choice in terms of what/who we follow when we are born. In some countries you disown your family when you choose to follow Jesus, and that may have happened to Ishmael’s line. Again, it isn’t fair. I’m learning things in my humbled state, but three stand out: 1. My actions hold consequences. 2. Life isn’t “fair.” 3. God is in absolute control.
And yet in the midst of it all, I’m battling the desire for “stuff,” which I’m absolutely convicted of, and I think of “when I get on my feet…” Yet, I think God has me right where He wants me. I hate it, but I’m learning to embrace it and be more of who God wants me to be. And I think the more I submit and see what to be thankful for, the more I realize life isn’t about me. In the same breath I realize that God can and might even use me for His glory. But that’s His choosing. I simply need to be obedient and follow 2 Chron. 7:14 and Luke 9:23 daily. Humbling myself, praying, repenting, seeking and carrying my cross. Tough, but worth it.
If a homosexual couple marries, then comes to Christ, is a divorce required because divorce is Biblically wrong?
Good question, but in the breath of repentance, they definitely need to get divorced. Scripture doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage so it’s not a biblical marriage to begin with. Is marriage defined by the state or by Scripture?
Why do Christians elevate homosexual sin if scripturally we are told all sin is equal?
All sin is not equal – see above on equality. But all sin does separate us from God.
The believe that US was founded on Christianity is confusing, instead he believes we were founded on democracy. Christianity is not a democracy and Stephen showed frustration when Christian’s claim the US foundation is built on Christianity.
He is right. It was not founded on Christianity but Judeo-Christian values and a response to the stronghold that the king had on the Anglican church and the unbiblical nature of that power. Many of our founders were actually masons, something that’s hugely scary. But the values and principals of truth, justice, love and freedom, all biblical concepts, was embedded in their actions and mindset.
Horoscopes are a prime example of a reader’s perspective on their outlook of a day. A reader views in the morning “a great event will happen today” and at end of day their influenced perspective recognizes “a great event for the day.” Did a reader have “a great event” because the horoscope said so, or did the reader manifest “a great event” being influenced by the horoscope? And can this same analogy be applied to Christians and prayer? Pray for X. Get it and God answers your prayer. Don’t get it and God said no to your request.
The parent analogy again applies. Going back to the Hebrew perspective of multiple gods, the horoscopes are also looking to the stars and “chance” as truth as opposed to God himself as truth. Are there signs, like personalities, that shed light on what people are like? Maybe loosely, but I think it’s looking at the wrong thing.
Someone once said that the most counterfeited bill is the 100. There are hundreds, if not thousands of ways it’s changed. But counterfeit agents don’t know all the changes. All they know is the real bill. I think the more we know the real God and not focus on the things that try to make it counterfeit, the more we recognize what real truth is. It’s not (just) a feeling we get that tells us something’s not right but the Sprit of God within us that will direct if we will just get our flesh and sinful desires out of the way!
I’m sure there’s more I could write, but it’s off the top of my head, my heart and hopefully what God wants as a response.