Functional Atheisim

First, this blog is a result of two things: (1) The book I am reading that is just beating the trash out of me, Future Grace. (2) The atheistic lives I see in many Christians, including the man in the mirror.  So, this may come across as harsh, and naive, but allow me to rant, as I am working out things in my own life, and do not mean to kill the innocent women and children in the barrage of missiles I am firing at myself…so if you are not ready for a rant, do NOT read this.  If you get offended, don’t tell me, I just warned you, DO NOT read it!

Let me start this blog off with. Jeremiah 9:23:

Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches…”

In these three phrases God names his great competitors for the boast of the human heart: wisdom, might, and riches. These three elements tempt us to take satisfaction in ourselves, our intelligence, our strength, our material resources. Each one lures us away from trusting God as the superior satisfaction above them all.

1. Intelligence/Wisdom (1 Cor. 8:1) – First lets establish this does NOT mean that God values ignorance and irrationality (1 Cor. 14:20). Second, let us see that Paul is not calling us into question the necessity of strong conviction and true knowledge. However, Paul seems very aware that what we know or think we know, can lead us away from resting in God’s wisdom and lead us toward boasting in our own. All true knowing depends on God. God gave us minds not only to know, but to know how we ought to know. We know the way we ought to know when we boast in the source of all knowing (1 Cor 1:26,29,31). When we boast in our own intelligence we prove we have turned to ourselves from God. We prove that our satisfaction is not in God’s wisdom, but in our ‘secondary capacities.’

2. Might/Strength/Ability – How often are we ready to take credit for what we ear, what God blesses us with, the connections we make. This is not a new temptation, this one that God has been warning about from the beginning: Deut 8:11-17. The proof of someone who trusts in God, is not in the lack of might, strength, influence, and ability, rather in the fact that we are completely secure and satisfied with God’s prerogative to do as he pleases in the sovereign freedom of his justice and grace vs. human reason. So if in that He has given us might, influence, strength, and ability, let us quickly realize that it is from him, not from us!

3. Riches/Money – Probably the greatest tempter of pride, because with it, we can purchase the resources of intelligence and power that we many not have on our own. With it we can feel more self-sufficient than without it, and there fore plenty of door are open for us to walk through in which we may feel we do not need to rely on God (Hosea 13:6; Jeremiah 49:4).

When all three of these come to a head, we have the fruition of complete ignorance – Atheism. The safest way to stay supreme in our own estimation is to deny anything above us. Ultimately the journey and life work of the atheist is to ‘prove that there is no God‘ which ultimately is nothing more than a work of faith to prove that faith is in and of itself ridiculous – the axiom of the atheists belief is faith, the blanket in which they cover up their faith is limited-logic.  So, why do we do this? We all know it is not because we can prove that God doesn’t exist, for there is not such proof. Rather God’s reality is overwhelmingly intrusive in all the details of life. John Piper answers this, “Pride cannot tolerate the intimate involvement of God in running even the ordinary affairs of life (James 4:13-17).”  It is not that anyone has disproved the Bible that makes them doubt it, but it is the demand it reveals that God must Lord over us, not self. It is not logic, science, or higher consciousness that dislikes the idea of a sovereign God, it is only pride. When all the flimsy arguments, objectives, paradigms, and desires are blown away, we are left with only one reason someone does not believe in the presence of God, and that is pride.

However, I have found one way of living that is even more stupid than atheism, and that is Christians who are functional-atheists. We compartmentalize our lives, go to church, check the box, and live no different than those who have learned to rely on their own wisdom, ability, and wealth.

We trust our own reasoning over our illogical God, we trust our own ability over our impotent God’s, and we live financial lives that prove we allow our desires to direct the way we use our money, not our vision of God’s sovereignty and his heart for the broken.

WARNING RANT: I still have not figured out how, that in a world of broken, desperate, hurting people, one can determine a $100,000 car to be a need (that is for another blog, because debt proves the same thing). Are we not to be counter cultural, are we not to live our lives in such a way that those in our circle of friends would look at us and say, “Hey, he could afford a $100k car, why is he only driving a $50k car, and taking care of homeless (or some other group) with the other $50k…what drives him to put others needs over his desires…”

Why are our massive homes places that prove our success, rather than places of refuge for those who are broken? How can I say, “I don’t have the money to sponsor that child in India while I am wearing my $100 jeans?” Right about now, I have just been written off as judgmental, and maybe I am. Since I have been written off as judgmental, I have no reason to stop: I cannot understand how one who says, “my identity is in Christ” can find a good reason to financially prove their identity is in everything but Christ. Now I’ll stop, and speak directly to me!

Just before you say, how can he point the finger and judge so harshly, he doesn’t know, what if he could afford all those things, he may do the same thing. First, you missed my point, my point was not against the wealthy, as the Bible is clear that those who ARE wealthy, He has given them their wealth, my complaint is what we do with our wealth – me included. Second, my confession is that I am a functional atheist. I love when I get noticed for what I do. I like it when I am given credit, and rather than, point it to God, I revel in it. I grow anxious when I feel God is asking me to go one way, but because I CAN’T figure out how to do it, I go the other. I rely on connections to accomplish and grow, more than I do God…My fear for leaving the known for the unknown, only comes from not knowing how I will pull it off, not whether or not God will go with me…

Anyway, so much for the rant, but as I said, I’ve been reading Future Grace, and it is just beating the trash out of me…so maybe next time I will do a blog in which I beat the trash out of cool christianity…then I’ll offend everyone…

Anyway, my prayer for me and for you is that our lives (EVERY ASPECT) will reveal to those around us, that we truly believe, rely on, and hold fast to who God is and what he says.

Anyway, love you all…have a great week…



11 thoughts on “Functional Atheisim

  1. In the words of our friend Jen, you are doing some serious “ball-busting” in this blog. I cannot be emphatic enough in my agreement and in my own humiliation.

    Now, how to walk… but without trying to walk by my own strength or wisdom.

    Prov 4:5-7 “Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”

  2. aw, man. i hate so much that we don’t live near you guys to raise our children together. i miss yours and sarah’s challenging insight. well, maybe someday you’ll move back to illinois, right?!

  3. Matthew,

    Amen – as Christians, I am shocked at how much we DON’T really believe the Bible. I think it cost to much. How can we “Set our minds on things above, not on earthly things…” (Col 3:1…) when it’s more prudent to make sure my Child has shoes and the kitchen renovation is done correctly to improve the value of my home!.

    Of course we need to provide food and clothing for our families – it would be ungodly to not provide for our immediate families just as it is written (1 Tim 5:8), but do we really believe God when we live just like everyone else? And what about strategic planning and church growth models when it comes to the church – is there room for God or do we really need Him if we can follow the right model and do it well?

    But of course, the most difficult thing is taking that leap of faith myself, just as you described regarding yourself. I am in debt and I don’t always know how to trust God and act, verses instinctively self-protect and hide.

    Good RANT and I look forward to the day when we all see how foolish and utterly ridiculous it was to care about the things of this world and the strategies we can think of when compared to the glory and splendor of our great God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

  4. Wow, Matthew, what a great challenge. I agree – thanks for the rant.

    I guess my only push-back (and it’s not really a push-back) is this: as a functional atheist myself, I need to the gospel both to challenge me to repent (which you just did) and to help me believe.

    Why do I continually look to influence or attractiveness or any other sign to define me? As you rightly said, it’s because I do not truly believe that my “identity is in Christ.”

    How can I believe that again?

    I think the only way that my grip on all the other things I look to please/satisfy/define will be loosened is when my heart is warmed to Christ again. And my heart is warmed to him – when once again I see his heart for me.

    The bad news is that I am a functional atheist. The good news is that God loves functional atheists – even to the point of death – and for that, I praise him.

    Capture our hearts, again, God.

    And Matthew, thanks again for the post.

  5. Hey man,

    I think this is a good, honest approach to a reality that seems to becoming to the forefront of Western Christianity. We can no longer stay silent and hide behind religion, God has called us to something greater and we need to hold each other “accountable” to that calling.

    My personal struggle with sovereignty and grace is trying to decide when and where to speak-up. Also, how does discipline work itself out (reaping and sowing), and how does free-will and sovereignty connect in our lives as it seems like Scripture points to both being present.

    Anyhow, good post!

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