Advice From An Atheist: “Be More Christian, Not Less”

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Several years ago, I wrote a book about how I’m tired of taking sides. But sometimes taking sides is unavoidable. When faced with Jesus’ claim that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” and that no one comes to God the Father except through Him, we have to choose. Do we believe Him or not? When it comes to Jesus, everyone will ultimately take a side.

That is not to say that those who have chosen to side with Jesus won’t ever have doubts. Most of us do at one time or another. Several years into his career as a Presbyterian minister, Francis Schaeffer began to have serious doubts, triggered by a growing concern over how poorly the Christians he knew treated one another. He witnessed negativity, faultfinding, backbiting, gossip, manipulation, power plays, and underhandedness among his fellow ministers. How could these ministers be so uncompromising about the Bible’s teachings about grace, love, kindness, and forgiveness, yet be so not those things in their personal lives?

Schaeffer committed to suspend belief and return to his agnosticism to examine Christianity from the beginning. He spent several months reading and rereading the Bible, immersing himself in philosophy and other world religions, scrutinizing it from every plausible worldview. In the end, he concluded that there is only one reason to be a Christian – because it’s true. That’s the conclusion I’ve come to as well.

We are in good company. The list of intellectual titans who are Christians is not merely two or three. Jonathan Edwards, an early president of Princeton University and a Christian minister, was identified by the Encyclopedia Brittanica as one of the brightest minds ever to set foot on American soil. There are many throughout history who, having looked seriously and with an open mind into the claims of Christianity, became Christians themselves.

Simon Greenleaf, chief founder of Harvard Law School, set out to demonstrate that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a made-up fairy tale, a hoax that could be believed only by ignorant, unenlightened fools. After looking into the facts, he, like Schaeffer, concluded that it was true.

Oxford historian C.S. Lewis, once an atheist who in his own words was “angry with God for not existing” became a Christian when his close friend J.R.R. Tolkien convinced him that the story of God’s redemption of the world is the Story behind every good story.

More recently, Jordan Monge, a political science major at Harvard, committed her life to Christ. Monge had gained a reputation for tearing down “poorly constructed arguments” that defended religion. Over time, however, thoughtful responses from Christian friends pressed her to begin doubting her doubts. As she considered the cross of Jesus, Christianity became not only plausible but beautiful.

Kirsten Powers, a political news analyst, wrote about how she was converted from atheism to Christianity after discovering the overwhelming body of evidence for biblical truth.

Malcolm Gladwell, journalist, author, speaker and staff writer for The New Yorker returned to Christianity after seeing the incredible power of faith in other people’s lives while researching a book: The billions of lives that have been changed through Jesus is even more convincing evidence for Christianity than any intellectual argument. Crooks returning what they have stolen, dying people finding peace, hurtful people asking forgiveness of those they have hurt, business people doing the less profitable thing because it is right, spouses staying committed to each other through the hard seasons, bereaved parents forgiving their beloved daughter’s murderer.

God’s power – the same power that spoke the galaxies into being, that parted the sea, that caused a blind man to see, and that raised Jesus from the dead – accounts for billions of people who have become better versions of themselves. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Perhaps you have been turned off to Christianity because of intellectual roadblocks. Are you willing to investigate the works of theological masters? Or the four biographies of Jesus in the Bible? Or at least to embark on the journey that Harvard legal Simon Greenleaf once made, to give it your best shot to prove Christianity is false?

Perhaps your faith has taken a hit because of the behavior of Christians around you. In the midst of your questions, doubts, and disappointments, are there any Christians you know whose lives have shown you glimpses of something different? Something beautiful, lovely, even admirable?

Any of these things could be Jesus speaking to you, reaching out to you, inviting you to come live outside the lines with Him.

To remain true to living outside the lines, I want to share some advice from someone on “the other side” – an atheist, Daniel Fincke. The following are Fincke’s “Top 10 Tips for Christian Evangelism (From an Atheist).” Ironically, I actually find his advice to be quite Christian.

  1. Be like Jesus: Hang with the Sinners and Judge the Judgers
  2. Form Genuine Relationships with People, Don’t Treat Them as Projects
  3. Actions Speak Louder Than Words
  4. When Talking about Religious and Philosophical Matters, Ask More Questions and Do Less Preaching
  5. Don’t Give Unsolicited Advice or Judgments. Support People and Wait for Them to Ask for Your Input if They Want It.
  6. Appreciate that Nominal Christians are Christians Too
  7. Don’t Try to Force Others into Christian Participation
  8. Understand Atheists and Embrace the Opportunity Confrontational Atheists Afford You
  9. Respect Other Religions Even as You Evangelize Their Members
  10. Love Your Enemies, Not Just Your Tribe (13)

Love your enemies, not just your tribe.

Once we draw a line and side with Jesus, we can no longer draw lines with our fellow human beings. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female. You are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).

If we want to be like Jesus, we will love all people. “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:44-46).

Are we on board with this? I sure want to be.

 


Scott’s latest book, A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us-Against-Them
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5 responses to “Advice From An Atheist: “Be More Christian, Not Less””

  1. Ethan says:

    “Because it’s true.” You’re going to have to do better than that.

  2. Greg says:

    I agree that people who at least claim to be in Christ can be miserable people. I run a business and can tell you that i have atheist customers who were far more gracious and understanding than many who professed to be believers. Why is this one may ask? For one, a great enemy is attempting to devour and deceive Christ followers where he doesnt touch the unbeliever- perhaps even inspires them towards the appearance of good. Secondly, many folks who are only Christian in name and may tend towards a puffy religious arrogance as they act Christian and never find true empowerment to live the abundant life focused on Jesus who died for them as undeserving sinners in desperate need. Paul addresses Christians who may tend to flounder this way in Eph 4:20 and on. He starts by saying that the impurity and stains of the world “is not the way you learned Christ,” assuming that this is the case. Then he paints the picture of a true believer. Any who are not grounded in reverence to Christ for His salvation that was given to the believer while they were still dead in sin can become miserable either arrogant or falsely humble religious actors.

    As far as advise from an atheist i would say this is like any oxymoron. If being more religious looking is your goal, then yes, they might have some good advise. That sure is not my goal. Yuck. Who wants to be a fake?

    So the list of pieces of atheist advise and a Christians response:

    1 A for atheist: Be like Jesus: Hang with the Sinners and Judge the Judgers. C for Christian response: I can be like Jesus in some ways, but am empowered to live selflessly when i reverence Him for who i can never be or be like in vast amounts. He is Creator, Sustainer, has existed eternally in the past, is our Savior and the one who powers our growth in holiness. Im none of that.

    2. A: Form Genuine Relationships with People, Don’t Treat Them as Projects. C: Christians can really only find genuine friendship with other Christians. We of course should be kind and caring for those outside if Christ. But to expect genuine relationship w another who hates who you love more than all is, well, impossible.

    3: A: Actions Speak Louder Than Words. C: the gospel is the only power unto salvation and the only way to define the terms of this beautiful good news is with words. The gospel has also has empowered good actions but these are incapable of giving another new life in Christ.
    3. A: When Talking about Religious and Philosophical Matters, Ask More Questions and Do Less Preaching
    C: ditto from number 2

    4. A: Don’t Give Unsolicited Advice or Judgments. C: the gospel will not be solicited by those not in Christ because the Bible says that nobody seeks God (Romans). Rather God seeks us (Luke 19:10)and reaches the sinner via the words coming from His saints.

    5. A:Support People and Wait for Them to Ask for Your Input if They Want It. C: ditto number 4

    6. Appreciate that Nominal Christians are Christians Too. C: A Christian in name only is exactly that- in name only. That is why the gospel should be spoken about often in our Churches for the nominal to become real. I know that i am a true Christian because when my pastor proclaims the gospel about my Savior, tears of joy will typically flow in thankfulness to God for my salvation.

    6. A: Don’t Try to Force Others into Christian Participation. C. This might be good advice. Forcing folks makes fakes. But encouraging them may produce blossoms of His glory manifested through His saints.

    7. A: Understand Atheists and Embrace the Opportunity Confrontational Atheists Afford You. C: i understand that according to the Bible, there really are no true atheists-(Ro 1:18,19) just those who so suppress the truth of Gods existence because of their desire to be in control. This makes them think that they dont believe in God. This means that there is only nominal atheism and no true atheism to be found on earth.

    8. A: Respect Other Religions Even as You Evangelize Their Members. C: i will respect and love all people regardless of race, creed or belief. There is one and only one pathway to God and that is in Jesus defined by His prophets. Think about this a moment: God created the universe w exacting universal physical laws (and He transcends these laws.) To think that spiritual laws for people on earth are just relative is not fitting of His character regarding His creation. In 1Cor 13 it says “love delights in truth.” Truth is canceled by the woke in this nation and along with all the other obvious nonsense wokeness has produced lately; canceling truth make no sense either.

    9: A: Love Your Enemies, Not Just Your Tribe (13). C: we are called to love everyone as persons created in the image of God. Since a nominal atheist shuts God out and indeed hates God, im sure the love he speaks of here is far different than the love Jesus commands us to.

  3. Carrie Cheecham says:

    I see that someone didn’t care for “because it’s true”. But yet I found that sentence to really stand out to me. I felt it profound because I’ve never FELT anything more true then Jesus Christ. Not Christianity but Him. I suck at being “a Christian” yet if you ask anyone who knows me they would say that I am. I can’t argue for Christianity but I can say with all my being that He is true and I can’t explain it. I just know.
    I see SO much arguing on Twitter about Christianity and what it means. But you know, people make it too complicated. It just is. And we are all sinners and growing at the speed that God overseas. I was a “Christian” for 10 years when I had an abortion!! Terrible horrible regretful choice BUT my growth was little. God ordained my life in this order. Today I am kinder, smarter, more empathetic and aware of others then I was then.
    And at the very core, it IS a heart issue. In my first years of Christianity, I knew I was saved, but I thought by works. THAT made me judgemental and unkind, selfish and thoughtless. I truly thought I was “better” then others. Good grief when God awoke me the sorrow was so big. I had to learn very hard lessons about how I treated others.
    Thankfully, He is a big God. Redeems EVERYTHING….including my self righteousness. Thank you Jesus. Today, I am made new. More every day.
    We can only keep praying that all of us in a Christ continue to grow and do better 🙂

  4. Steven epperson says:

    FYI, the link to Malcolm Gladwell above is broken…

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