There’s been a lot of publicity lately for vocal opponents of God in general and Christianity in particular. With the popularity of Angels and Demons and other fictional books/movies also comes a curiosity about non-fiction anti-God or religion books, such as The God Delusion or God is Not Good. That’s normal, but for some people it’s a scary concept. Why? (excuse me as I ramble a bit about this)
The thing I find interesting (as does the media, as I keep seeing these stories everywhere) is that so many of the anti-God crowd used to call themselves Christians. Some of them seem to feel that this gives them more credibility, as they’ve now “seen through the lies” and they’re now better, happier people, free from the chains of organized religion. But almost all of them left Christianity because of a person or group of people within the Christian community who failed in some way.
I’ll get back to that in a second because I think it’s important. Let’s talk about the reaction by Christians to all of these anti-God ideas cropping up…actually, maybe I’d rather not. It hasn’t been something I’ve wanted to be associated with. I have an agnostic friend who says that there are two kinds of Christians, “normal people, and crazies”, and the crazies seem to be winning right now. Every story about a seemingly reasonable, intelligent atheist tends to get paired with a profile on a wild-eyed fundamentalist (when did that become a bad word?) ranting, boycotting and maybe even blowing something up.
Why do Christians fear questions? It’s a stupid position to take, frankly. If you believe that something is true, so true in this case that you call it the Truth with a big capital “T”, then don’t you think it would be able to stand up to a little questioning? And if you think somehow that it won’t stand up, then why do you believe it in the first place?
I had a friend once tell me that she was afraid to talk to an atheist because she “wouldn’t know how to answer all his questions” and thought she might turn into an atheist herself! What an odd position to take! And yet many Christians seem to believe that if they turn on their brains and think about hard questions in Christianity, they won’t be able to believe anymore. How sad, to be convinced that thought and faith are incompatible.
I had a professor in college whose rallying cry most lectures was “Think!”, specifically for Christians to think about hard questions. Questions are not bad, and God is certainly big enough to handle them. Have questions? Find answers. In the Bible itself the Bereans were commended who studied day and night to “find out if these things were true”. I’ve heard people say that to have true faith you need to “stop thinking too much and just believe”. That’s ridiculous. God gave you your brain, so please use it.
Now, I’m not saying that we all need to run out and buy The God Delusion or hold church events to Angels and Demons. I am saying to fellow Christians what Peter said – always be ready to make a defense for the hope that is within you. If you don’t know why you believe what you believe, then you don’t really believe it at all. Questions are only scary if you’re afraid of finding out the truth. For Christians and atheists alike, that means coming to terms with the idea that you might be wrong. And that’s ok. My experience has been that if you study all the evidence with a legitimately open mind, then the God of Christians is really the only answer that makes sense. I don’t think that’s going to change based on tomorrow’s angry person writing another book. But I do think I should be ready to talk about it in a serious, thoughtful manner.
Speaking of angry people, let’s go back to those who felt betrayed by Christianity. They generally leave the faith because of a person who failed them, remember? It’s easy to see why this happens. New Christians often come into the faith because of an influential person in their life, and that’s fine. The problem starts when that new Christian doesn’t ask questions, and just follows that influential person instead of learning to put their focus on and faith in God. Because eventually, that person is going to fail.
As a Christian, this shouldn’t scare you. If your faith is in the right spot, you won’t stop being a Christian just because you asked questions. And you won’t be responsible for someone else leaving just because you’re not perfect – you’re not God. You will fail. You will fail a lot, and you will fail people more times in your life than you will be able to count, often without ever even knowing about it. And that is exactly what the Bible says we should expect to happen.
If we believe Christianity is true, then we should expect Christians to fail, because Christianity is not based (thank God!) on perfect people. It is based on a perfect God, who loved us enough to bridge the gap between us anyway, even though we didn’t deserve it. And someone who based their belief in a mere Christian is someone who didn’t really know what they believed in the first place. Don’t be that person. Know what you believe. Question. Think. I promise it’s ok.