Transitions and Steadfastness – Part III
Today, we get further into looking at the four different scenarios relating to transitioning or remaining Christian or atheist. Once again, these same four scenarios could easily be argued by other faiths, but Christianity is being treated here.
Now, we’re going to get into some of the more touchy areas that might, perhaps, have a bit more controversy or, at least, be a little more complicated and hopefully thought provoking. First, in order to make sure we’re all on the same page, I’d just like to list out these four scenarios once again:
- Christians who remain Christians
- Atheists who remain atheists
- Christians who become atheists
- Atheists who become Christians
The first two scenarios were pretty simple and straightforward. When an individual does not change their standpoint, little explanation is needed. Now we’ll be getting into the third scenario, and hopefully this will be a help to those whose faith could suffer if pressed in a “spiritual attack.”
At a very high level, it seems to me that most people who start off as Christians and end up leaving their faith tends to have one, single, glaring theme in common. Any time I have seen or heard of this happening, it turns out that the foundation of that person’s faith was not very solid.
One example of this might be the Church itself. Someone might lose their faith because of multiple negative experiences with other Christians. Or, perhaps, a church leader that they have a great deal of respect for commits some horrible sin of some kind. Whichever is the case, this person obviously set their faith upon the actions of other people and not on Christ, Himself. This can be dangerous because people will always disappoint you if you spend enough time with them. If that is a deal-breaker for your faith, you’re backing the wrong horse.
Another common issue is putting one’s faith in their own prosperity. This is usually the result of buying into the “Health and Wealth Gospel” that seems to be more pervasive in our society today. The Health and Wealth Gospel is the teaching which says that if you accept Jesus and live a good, Christian life, you’ll basically be “doted on” by God. You won’t have any health issues. Any health problems you have will go away miraculously. You’ll get promotion after promotion in your job. Your business will start booming. People will automatically just be nicer to you. Your marriage will be perfect. Your children will be perfect. You won’t have any financial worries. Your car, your refrigerator, your microwave, your washer/dryer will never break down. I think you get the point.
Obviously this is a false understanding of how God works. We are not God’s pets that He should keep us healthy and cozey and warm and well-fed. Sure, He’ll take care of our needs, but sometimes we seem to get a very strange idea of what constitutes a “need.” My pastor recently reported that, statistically, if you have clothes on your back, a roof over your head and $20 in your pocket, you are more wealthy than 75% of the entire world population.
So, don’t shake your fist at God when you buy a $750K home when you’re making $40K per year and then get a foreclosure notice. Don’t get upset when you’re BMW is getting re-possessed. God never promised you a grandiose home, luxury cars, hand-made Italian suits, etc.
But often, when people don’t see themselves becoming more affluent, or they lose their job or their house or their car, they get angry at God and disown Him because they had the wrong idea about God’s role in our lives in the first place.
There are others, though, who fall away for more serious (and more unfortunate) reasons. This typically also has to do with a misunderstanding of the nature of God. But not because they thought of Him as a celestial benefactor. One such sticking point for many Christians is what philosophers call the “Problem of Evil.” The Problem of Evil is, in a sense, a study of how a good, loving, all-powerful God could allow some of the terrible tragedies that we witness throughout the world today; hurricanes, tornadoes, violent crime, sickness, poverty, etc.
Christians-turned-atheists such as the late Charles Templeton, found this to be their Achilles heel. They simply could not reconcile how a loving God could allow such horrible things to happen. This is a problem that is hotly debated in theological circles and has been for some years now.
Usually, people who fall victim to this issue simply miss the fact that all of these terrible things that happen to people is a result of our own sin and not some angry, vindictive, capricious deity. Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Faith” I think does a very good job of dealing with this Problem of Evil and helping us to get a better perspective on how things like this can happen and how, in fact, God is shown as being abundantly merciful in light of many of these situations.
Similar to this issue are the “atrocities” committed by God in the Old Testament. Once again, this seems to be a failure to fully grasp the situation. Again, Strobel’s book treats this issue in some depth. But apart from Strobel’s work, I would also submit that one reason this problem is so daunting to us is due to the fact that we…humans…lack the eternal, omniscient perspective of God.
On a small scale, we can probably all think of situations that seemed awful at the time, but then turned out for our own good. But it is difficult for us to imagine, being finite as we are, that perhaps the good to come will not be realized for far longer than we will live. In some cases, nobody may ever notice the good that comes as a result of some tragedy. Those dots may not ever be connected.
As Christians, there are times that we have to trust that God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing certain things. However, we can’t just check our brains at the door and go on blind faith. The faith and trust that we have in God is not based on blind faith, but on the countless times in which God has shown that He is faithful…the times that we have seen the good that comes from what we perceived to be bad. Just like scripture teaches, “He who is faithful in least is faithful in much.”
I’m sure there are other examples of Christians falling away from their faith, but in the interest of keeping this post from getting too lengthy, I’ll leave it at this one.
Please feel free to share your own thoughts and experiences as to other issues that you have seen cause people to leave the Christian faith.
Grace, love and peace.