Throwing in the Towel on Jesus

Throwing in the Towel on Jesus

Robert was once a Southern Baptist pastor and now he is a professed atheist.  A friend wrote him a letter of concern, and following begins Robert’s “Letter to a Christian Friend.”

Dear Friend,

I thought that you might be surprised, as most of my old friends and my family have been. It is difficult for most Christians to believe that a former southern baptist minister could be an Atheist. You responded very much like a lot of them and did so with concern, love, an obvious bias that I understand, and some false assumptions. I have no problem explaining my journey to you or anyone who has a sincere desire to know, but you really need to keep an open mind, because as you already have in your e-mail, you will be tempted to assume some things that simply are false. Nothing that you wrote that supports your faith is new to me and I think you know me well enough to know that. They are convictions I once held myself. I think you also know the answer to some of the questions you posed; especially the one about whether or not I ever was a Christian. You, of all people, know better than to ask such a question. As arrogant as this may sound, if I wasn’t a Christian, then no one is.

Let me answer some of your other direct questions. I do not believe in anything supernatural or spiritual, therefore I do not believe in a god. Christianity at it’s core is a religion based on faith (believing without evidence). In fact there is no evidence that the God of the bible exists, there is only personal experience. This is how there can be so many different religions and so many different Christian denominations that can claim to have the truth. None of them have the truth, they have belief without evidence. So, to your question about death and an afterlife….when I die, I’m dead, gone, that’s it. No I will not see my wife and children somewhere in a “spiritual place.” No such place exists…

As you can imagine, Robert has received a lot of replies to his open letter defending his new found Atheism. I would like to make a few observations of my own that, for me, reflect the core of Robert’s dilemma.

1. Convictions are a poor substitute for Conversion:  What I find most striking in Robert’s response is that nowhere does he discuss a historical relationship with Jesus.  Instead, what Robert describes is giving up one set of philosophical convictions about “god” for another set of convictions about the “absence of god.”   I think Robert reflects a great swath of Western Faith that relies heavily on adhereence to s set of convictions that have limited emphasis on a personal encounter with Jesus.

2. Evidence  is meaningless without an Encounter: I am not surprised Robert rejects the existence of the supernatural because clearly he never had an encounter with YHWH.  He became a professional pastor, bought into a system of religious beliefs, but nowhere did he ever experience a personal encounter with Jesus or the power of the Spirit.   How do I know?  Because Robert says so.  His circular reasoning is based on a false syllogism, “God is supernatural, I have not experienced the supernatural, therefore God does not exist.”  In the end, Robert’s atheistic faith is still based on a narcissistic worldview instead of a external relationship.

3. Conversion and Encounter are the key. The Apostle Paul is an early example of how these two elements stand at the center of Faith in Christ.  Paul was a Jew who killed Christians for a living.  He killed Christians based on a very strong set of convictions, rooted in the Old Testament evidence about God.  The evidence never changed and Paul’s convictions about God were right on target.  What changed for Paul was his encounter with Jesus and his conversion through the Holy Spirit.

Robert’s story is a lesson for all those who preach the Gospel of Jesus.  There are many “Roberts” in our churches.  Many have been created by false pastors and leaders who have relied on convictions and evidence to the exclusion of conversion and encounter.  But just as bad are those who fight endlessly to change the convictions of how we “do” church.  How many blogs have you read that argue that the only real way to “do” communion is with a meal?  How many websites have you read that rail against any who “do” church in a big building and insist that the “house” is the only place where God dwells?  In reality, all of these trendy arguments are focused on changing people’s convictions and they will eventually lead to even more disillusioned “Roberts”.

If you are struggling with the inability to “worship” YHWH, the answer will not be found changing your location, changing the size of your congregation, or changing your style of worship. The answer is found in a personal encounter with Jesus and a conversion of the heart empowered by the Spirit.

A Mother’s Day Poem for My Wife

A Mother’s Day Poem for My Wife

A few years back our church plant had a special Mother’s day service.   All the older kids stayed in for the worship, sat at the tables, and made cards for their moms during the sermon.  Since I was not preaching that day, I decided to make a card for my wife Suzanne.  Admittedly, it is not my best work, my poem does not exactly flow off the tonnage, but if you read it in the proper meter, it still rhymes pretty good. Suzanne liked the card well enough and said I could share it with you all on this Mother’s’ Day.

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As a side note, the CheeseMark Card label was created back in college by my friend Dave Young and I. The name and tag-line are perfect for poor college students and church planters

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