Is Christianity a Religion?

Several weeks ago, I asked the question, “Is Atheism a Religion?” My conclusion was that “Atheism is not a religion, per se, but almost all Atheists practice a non-theistic kind of religion. Atheist religion is generally not an institutionalized system or organization, but usually more of a personal set of non-theistic religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.”

Today I will tackle the question of whether Christianity is a religion. It is my contention that there are, in fact, two distinct forms of Christianity: one form that is a religion, not different from any other religion, and another that is much more than just a religion.

What is religion?

In order to answer the question, it is necessary to first define exactly what religion is.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, religion is:

1 a :  the state of a religious <a nun in her 20th year of religion>

b (1) :  the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) :  commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

2 :  a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

3 archaic :  scrupulous conformity :  conscientiousness

4 :  a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

In my discussion of Atheism, I identified 8 common traits of religions:

  1. Religions have narratives or texts.
  2. Religions have doctrines.
  3. Religions have faith.
  4. Religion is a source of purpose and meaning.
  5. Religions have rituals.
  6. Religions use symbols.
  7. Religion provides social construct.
  8. Religions proselytize.

Religion is both a set of beliefs about God and a set of practices based on those beliefs. The more religious a person is, the more fervently the set of beliefs and practices is followed.

Two kinds of Christianity

Here we come to the crux of the question: Is Christianity a religion, or is it something more?

I contend that there are, in fact, two distinct kinds of Christianity. There is a form of Christianity that is clearly religion. Catholicism, Evangelicalism, Protestantism, and Fundamentalism are all religions. They are all sets of beliefs with accompanying behaviors and practices. Even Christians who are not a part of any organized church or denomination ultimately have a religion. They have a personal set of beliefs and practices.

There is another form of Christianity, however, that goes far beyond the definition of a religion. Consider this passage from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John:

22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”

Verse 27 emphasizes the relationship between Jesus and His followers:

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

This goes beyond simply knowing about Jesus; a true follower of Jesus Christ actually knows Him.

I know a lot about the President of the United States. I see him on television and in my Facebook newsfeed nearly every day. I know what he says, and who he is. However, I cannot say I know him. We’ve never even met in person, and even if we had, he wouldn’t remember me from any of the hundreds of thousands of other people he’s met. Compare that to the relationship I have with my wife and kids. I live with them, and I talk with them regularly. I actually know them quite well, and they know me quite well. We have individual, close connections .

So it is with those who truly follow Jesus. We don’t just know about Jesus, we know Him personally. He knows us personally. We don’t just follow a religion; we follow a person that we have actually met, with whom we have a personal relationship.

Consider also these verses from Matthew 7:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Notice that it isn’t the religious people that enter heaven – it’s those who do the will of the Father and whom Jesus knows. What is the “will of the Father?” In the context of the passage, it’s certainly not being religious. Jesus repeatedly saves his harshest criticism for the most religious people in His culture. The will of God is that people would know Him.

How are the two kinds of Christianity different from each other?

Let me give my answer from personal experience. I grew up as a religious Christian. I was in a church service nearly every Sunday. My entire family was active in the church; my dad sang in the choir, and my mom was the Sunday KnowtheAuthorSchool Superintendent. I was active in the youth group – president, my senior year – and went to church camp every summer. I knew a lot about the Bible, God, and Jesus. I participated in fundraisers to help the poor, vacation Bible school, and Bible study classes. Although I knew I did some bad things, I believed my goodness outweighed the bad. I believed, God is love; he accepts us as we are, warts and all.

However, as a college freshman, I realized that this wasn’t enough. Although I knew a lot about Jesus, I didn’t know Jesus. And, though I was mostly a good person, I still sinned, and sin separates us from God – it prevents us from knowing Him. I discovered that God is not only a God of love, He is also the God of holiness, justice, and truth. It was then that I changed from the first kind of religious Christianity to the second kind – relationship Christianity. I repented of my sin, and from trying to earn my way to Heaven. I acknowledged that Jesus is God; that He died for my sin, and rose again. And I committed my life to follow Him. God then did an amazing thing. He forgave my sin, and He restored my relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit tool up residence in my heart (2 Corinthians 1:22). I now not only knew about Jesus – I actually came to know Him in a personal way.

This is the difference between the two kinds of Christianity: The first is a religion, no different from any other religion. It has a holy book, doctrine, faith, rituals, and symbols, like any other religion. Religious Christianity provides social construct and purpose and meaning, as do all religions. Faithful religious Christians proselytize, as do the faithful from all other religions. And, like all other religions, religious Christianity does nothing to restore the relationship with God that has been lost because of human sin. It acknowledges that Jesus paid the penalty for sin on the cross, but does nothing to activate that forgiveness in anyone’s life. It’s sort of like starving to death while looking at a table full of food. Food does no good, unless one actually ingests it. That’s what relationship Christianity is all about: ingesting and applying the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ, and beginning a relationship with Him. Yes, those who have a relationship with Jesus also have the Bible, doctrine, and faith. Yes, our relationship with Jesus is the source of our social construct, purpose, and meaning. We proselytize, and although for many of us, rituals and symbols aren’t especially important, we still have them. The key difference is that these things aren’t the foundation – our relationship with Jesus is the foundation.

RelationshipnotreligionIs Christianity a religion? It depends on which kind of Christianity being discussed. It has been claimed that, “Christianity isn’t a religion – it’s a relationship.” I only partially agree with this. A better way of stating this would be, “True Christianity isn’t just a religion – it’s a relationship.” Much of what people know as Christianity is a religion, and is ultimately no different from any other religion. It makes people feel good, and act a certain way, but cannot restore a relationship with God. The other kind of Christianity is a relationship with God, through the blood of Jesus Christ. This second kind of Christianity still has most of the marks of religion, but is much, much more than just a religion. Religious Christianity is based on trying to make one’s self acceptable to God, which cannot be done, and ultimately leads to death and Hell. Relationship Christianity is based on what Jesus did, not what we do. We become acceptable before God because Jesus took our sin on Himself. Relationship Christianity restores our connection with our Creator, and leads to eternal life, not Hell.

Application

What difference does this make? It makes all the difference in the world! If you are a religious Christian – you have the doctrine, faith, rituals, and symbols, etc., but you don’t know Jesus personally – your sins are not forgiven, and you have not had your relationship with God restored. You are headed for Hell. You need to repent of your religiosity, acknowledge that you cannot make yourself acceptable to God, and receive forgiveness and restoration through Jesus Christ. Head knowledge is not the same as a relationship. Religion makes people feel good, but leads to Hell. Stop having faith in religion, and place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. If you profess another religion, or no religion at all, you also need Jesus. You may have a wonderful life, but in the end, you will spend eternity separated from God in Hell, unless you turn to Jesus.

jesus_talkingIf you know Jesus already, you probably already understand this distinction. Make sure you keep your heart and mind focused on Jesus, not on all the religious stuff that accompanies faith in Jesus. Sure, the “religious” stuff, like reading your Bible, trying to do what is right, giving to the poor, and regularly attending corporate worship are important, they are no substitute for developing your relationship with Jesus. When you share your faith in Jesus with others, they will often think Christianity is no different from any other religion. In a sense, they are right – most of what they have seen is the religious Christianity, not relationship Christianity. Make the distinction between Christianity the religion and Christianity the relationship. Both exist, but only one leads to eternal life.

One final thought: the two kinds of Christianity are usually mixed together in any given church or denomination. That is, in most solid, Bible-believing churches, there are some that don’t actually know Jesus, along with those that do. There are also Christians who truly know Jesus in some very religious churches. Knowing Jesus isn’t a matter of whether one belongs to the right or wrong denomination or church.

If you want to know more about knowing Jesus, leave a comment, or send me a message. I’d love to tell you more.

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Why Use Reason When You Can Just Mock People?

no reason neededI didn’t bother blogging about the recent Ken Ham / Bill Nye debate, because I figured enough other people were already blogging about it. However, I ran across a blog by Ronald Bailey on Reason.com entitled How Really to Debate Creationists: Bill Nye versus Ken Ham that I thought deserved comment.

Bailey begins with the typical argument that Nye shouldn’t have debated Ham, because creationists shouldn’t have a platform to promote their views. Basically, if you can’t beat ’em, shut ’em up. Not exactly a reasoned response.

Bailey continues by stating – or, more accurately, misstating – several creationist concepts, ranging from man and dinosaurs coexisting to fossil formation during Noah’s flood to why the Big Bang doesn’t make sense. Rather than actually giving rational arguments for why he thinks these concepts are wrong, he simply labels them “nonsense.” Ad hominem attacks are not a reasoned argument.

How should an evolutionist deal with creationists? According to Bailey, “there is a way to beat Creationists at their own game – mockery.” He continues:

So don’t try to knock down each individual assertion of mountebanks like Ham during such a “debate,” but instead concentrate on the goal of explaining by entertaining with a bit of mockery thrown in. You will gratify your intellectual friends; annoy your enemies; and perhaps persuade some of the confused to take a deeper look into the scads of evidence for biological evolution.

Bailey links to a video of himself and atheist Michael Shermer debating intelligent designers Stephen Meyer and George Gilder. Bailey uses the “Intelligent Design by Purple Space Squids” argument to mock his opponents’ arguments.

So, according to the website REASON.com, one should not use reason to argue against creation. Bailey then justifies his argument:

My talk clearly did not persaude Meyer and Gilder, but by show of hands Shermer and I did win the debate at Freedomfest.

Since evolutionists cannot win the debate with reason, they should resort to mockery and entertainment. Mockery and entertainment win debates. And apparently, mockery also determines the truth.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. They think their beliefs are based on “reason,” when in fact they are based on logical fallacy and foolishness.

Logical, reasoned arguments will not sway a fool who has set himself in opposition to Jesus Christ. Such people have already made up their minds to reject reason and the truth. However, for those who are truly seeking the truth, logical, reasoned arguments can draw people to the truth of the Gospel.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. 1 Peter 3:15

Worldview Jenga Towers

Ever played Jenga? Jenga is a game where a tower is constructed of 54 wooden blocks. Players take turns removing blocks, one at a time, until the tower collapses.

Recently, I saw the following comment by an atheist on Facebook:

Creationists are not unwilling to listen to the evidence because they believe themselves to be correct. They are unwilling to listen because they must, at ANY cost, defend their ideologies because they are a Jenga tower of [expletive deleted]. Remove one peg and the whole thing comes down. Try getting anyone to deny something they’ve predicated their entire life on. It has to come from within. As it did for us.

Why do young-earth creationists defend their beliefs? And, why do atheists defend evolution?

Jenga TowerIt is ironic that this atheist would post such a comment, because creation is much more of a threat to an atheistic worldview than evolution could ever be to a Christian worldview. One’s worldview is the totality of a person’s beliefs. Like a Jenga tower, all worldviews have certain core beliefs that form the base. Without these foundational axioms, the entire worldview collapses. There are millions of Christians who believe God used some sort of evolutionary process to bring about the world as we now know it. Faith in Jesus Christ is not predicated on young earth creation. However, atheism is absolutely dependent on evolution, because any alternative that implies God or any other “higher power” completely contradicts the belief that no such God exists. An evolutionary worldview is the only possibility if one is going to maintain that nothing supernatural exists. To use the Jenga analogy, if any form of creation or intelligent design were true, not only is a peg removed from the Jenga tower of atheism, the entire table the tower was built upon disappears. This is why atheists so vehemently defend evolution and attack any notion of creation.

If faith in Jesus Christ is not predicated on a literal young-earth understanding of the Bible, then why do Biblical creationists so passionately defend a literal understanding of Genesis?

While it is true that one can be a Christian while believing that God used some sort of evolutionary process, to do so is inconsistent, and it undermines the authority of the Bible. Genesis clearly teaches that God created the universe in six normal days, not billions of years. The Gospel message is based on the fact that every person is a sinner in need of a Savior, and that everyone is a sinner because we have inherited a sin nature from our original ancestor, Adam (see Romans 5). If evolution is true, then the Genesis account is false, and if Genesis is false, then there is no original sin, and no need for a Savior. Christians base their belief in Jesus Christ on the fact that the Bible is correct when it talks about Jesus. Yet, if the Bible is wrong when it talks about origins, why would it be correct when it talks about Jesus?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying a person cannot be a saved, born-again Christian without a literal understanding of Genesis. What I am saying is that to do so, the Christian is being irrational. Numerous studies involving people who once called themselves Christians, but no longer do, have shown that belief in evolution is among the top reasons why people who are brought up in Christian homes and Bible-believing churches begin to question the Bible’s accuracy, eventually leading to complete rejection of Christian belief. Evolution and the Bible are incompatible. Atheists and other non-Christians understand this. Biblical young-earth creationists understand this. The only ones who can’t seem to understand this are those who try to cling to both the Bible and evolution.

Is evolution a proven fact, as many claim? Far from it. The scientific method requires experimentation that is observable, testable, and repeatable. Evolution, in the sense of all life coming from a common ancestor, cannot be observed – it supposedly happened in the past. It cannot be tested or repeated for the same reason. The fact that we see changes in organisms today does not imply that all life came from a common origin. Common design elements in DNA does not necessarily mean common ancestry; it makes more sense that commonalities in DNA design are due to a common designer. Gaps in the fossil record, carbon-14 in fossils, and the tremendous amount of information in DNA all point to the truth of the Bible’s account and completely contradict evolution. This isn’t to say that evolutionists haven’t come up with all sorts of convoluted rescuing devices to maintain their belief in random, natural processes; however, the actual observable evidence is completely in harmony with the Biblical account, while extremely contradictory to the notion that life came to be as it is today all by itself. I could write volumes explaining this point further, but I won’t. A quick Google search will serve the purpose for any reader who really wants to seek out the truth of the matter. Ultimately, most atheistsand evolutionists really don’t care about the evidence, despite protestations to the contrary. They only care about maintaining their Jenga tower of unbelief.

Jenga 2If there was incontrovertible proof that evolution is true, would my Christianity come crashing down? Absolutely not; my faith in Jesus Christ is not dependent on my current understanding of the origins of the universe, but rather is based on a relationship with Him. True, I would have a crisis of faith, and I would need to seriously rebuild my understanding of the Bible, but I would remain a follower of Jesus Christ. Part of my Jenga tower worldview would fall, but the foundation would remain intact. I have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit dwells in me; it would be impossible for me to cease believing in the Savior Who has so radically changed me from the inside. It would be like denying oxygen. However, an atheist must maintain a belief in evolution, or their entire worldview must come crashing down. Atheism is impossible without evolution; it is critical to the foundation of an atheistic worldview.

This is why atheists must attack creation while defending evolution.

As a Christian, I defend the literal Truth of the Bible, not because I must for my Christianity to stand, but because I have a passion for seeing others come to know the Truth. Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” John 8:32. He also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” John 14:6. We defend creation and challenge evolution because we want others to know Jesus.

Atheist Day – April 1 – Psalm 14:1

I had the following exchange (paraphrased) on Facebook the other day:

Me: Atheist Day is April 1. Psalm 14:1 – The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

Atheist: Atheists aren’t fools. You’re a moron.

Me: Can there be anything more foolish that telling God that He doesn’t exist?

Atheist: I don’t tell gods they don’t exist. I don’t talk to fictional characters.

foolI had to paraphrase the atheist’s remarks, because she blocked me from seeing her comments a few minutes after she posted them.

I was both amused and saddened by this person’s answer. She apparently had no idea that by stating, “I don’t talk to fictional characters,” she was doing precisely what she argued she doesn’t do – she was telling God He doesn’t exist.


According to urban legend, a judge in Florida once declared that April 1 is “Atheist Day,” citing Psalm 14:1. This legend has been debunked; it apparently originated as a joke on a humor mailing list in 2002.

Is Atheism Foolish?

The fool has said in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good.

~ Psalm 14:1

Atheism is a very foolish worldview to hold. For one thing, atheism is completely illogical. An atheist contends that he or she knows there is no God. Logically, one cannot know that something does not exist.

sasquatchLet’s use Bigfoot, also known as sasquatch, as an example. In order to know Bigfoot does not exist, one would have to look in every place Bigfoot could possibly exist. They would have to look in all of these places at the same time, to ensure Bigfoot wasn’t moving from place to place. They would also have to know what Bigfoot is. Otherwise, they might actually see Bigfoot, but not recognize it. Logically, no one can know Bigfoot does not exist. The best one can logically know is that they have never seen Bigfoot, or any evidence for the existence of Bigfoot. One can conclude that Bigfoot probably does not exist, but one cannot logically conclude absolutely that Bigfoot does not exist.  Personally, I don’t believe in Bigfoot.  However, it would be illogical to say I know Bigfoot does not exist.  I would be a sasquatch agnostic rather than an a-sasquatch-ist.


The same logic applies to God. In order to know God does not exist, one would need to be looking everywhere in the universe simultaneously, and would need to know what God looks like in order to recognize whether He was present, or not. Such a person would need to be omnipresent to look everywhere at once, and omniscient to know what God looks like. Unless a person is indeed omnipresent and omniscient, it is illogical to claim one knows God does not exist.


The most a person can logically claim is that they don’t know if God exists. This would be agnosticism, not atheism. At least with agnosticism, there is enough intellectual integrity to acknowledge not knowing for certain.


Blaise PascalAnother reason atheism is foolish is what is known as Pascal’s Wager. Blaise Pascal (1633 – 1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher. He argued that if a Christian is wrong about Christianity, they basically live a happy life, and when they die – they’re gone. They really haven’t lost anything by being wrong in their beliefs. However, if a non-Christian is wrong, although they may live a happy life here on earth, when they die, they end up in Hell. In other words, if one “wagers” on Christianity and loses, they lose nothing; if one “wagers” against Christianity and loses, they lose everything.


Although many atheists have devised convoluted scenarios they believe work around Pascal’s Wager, the same basic question remains: What if one is wrong about Christianity? If I, as a Christian, am wrong about Christianity, I’ll never know. When I die, I’ll just rot in the grave, and cease to exist. But, if an atheist is wrong about Christianity, they end up in Hell for eternity. That’s one bet I would not want to lose!


The most foolish thing about being an atheist is that atheist actually do know God exists. However, they intentionally suppress that knowledge.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

~ Romans 1:18-23


God’s existence is obvious to anyone who is willing to see it. Everything in the universe points to His existence. The problem is that all people are born in rebellion against God.

The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one.

~ Psalm 14:2-3


Every person is born separated from God. Yet God, in His grace, reveals Himself to each of us, and gives us the opportunity to turn to Him.


For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

~ John 3:16

Those who choose to respond to the Gospel and receive Christ as Lord and Savior gain an eternal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Those who foolishly suppress the truth of the Gospel remain eternally separated from God, and spend eternity in Hell. This is why atheism is foolish. For God to offer forgiveness, reconciliation with Himself, and eternal life, yet to choose to tell Him, “No thank you. You do not exist,” is the most foolish thing a person could ever do.

Pushing People Out of the Church – Part 8

A while back, I read an article on Alternet.org, the anti-religion, left-wing, “news”-and-commentary website, entitled, “8 Ways Christian Fundamentalists Make People Convert — to Agnosticism or Atheism,” by skeptic Valerie Tarico.

Valerie Tarico

While I personally find most of the articles on this site to be little more than irrational liberal blathering, this article caught my interest, because it contains some truths that Christians need to understand.

Ultimately, those who reject Jesus Christ do so because they choose to suppress the truth (Romans 1:18-19). Unfortunately, there are also many things that those in the church do to push people away. As Tarico states, “if you read ExChristian testimonials you will notice that quite often church leaders or members do things that either trigger the deconversion process or help it along.”

I’ve found that I can often learn a lot by listening to what skeptics say about their perceptions of Christianity. This series looks at the eight reasons Tarico highlights.

Reason #8: Intrusion

Australian comedian and atheist John Safran flew to Salt Lake City for a round of door-to-door devangelism after Mormons rang his doorbell one too many times on Saturday morning. More serious intrusions, in deeply personal beginning- and end-of-life decisions, for example, generate reactive anti-theism in people who mostly just want to live and let live.

Catholic and evangelical conservatives have made a high-stakes gamble that they can regain authoritarian control over their flocks and hold onto the next generation of believers (and tithers) by asserting orthodox dogmas, making Christian belief an all-or-nothing proposition. Their goal is a level of theological purity that will produce another Great Awakening based largely on the same dogmas as the last one. They hope to cleanse their membership of theological diversity, and assert top-down control of conscience questions, replenishing their membership with anti-feminist, pro-natalist policies and proselytizing in the Southern hemisphere. But the more they resort to strict authoritarianism, insularity and strict interpretation of Iron Age texts, the more people are wounded in the name of God and the more people are outraged. By making Christian belief an all-or-nothing proposition, they force at least some would-be believers to choose “nothing.” Anti-theists are all too glad to help.

Tarico starts off by making a good point: Barging in on people turns them off. Nobody likes having the Gospel – or anything else, for that matter – shoved down their throat. Nobody likes being intruded upon. This is a point that almost everyone would agree with.

She then does a bait-and-switch by equating “intrusion” with conservative Christianity. She asserts that Christian leaders who teach a literal Bible do in order to “assert top-down control” and “regain authoritarian control over their flocks.”

While it is true that some conservative churches are highly authoritarian and almost cultish in their control over their membership, this is neither Biblical nor typical. To imply that because some conservative churches are controlling, all conservative churches are controlling, is to commit the logical fallacy of the hasty generalization.

Tarico also begs the question when she argues that evangelical conservative Christians are wrong because we make Christianity an “all-or-nothing proposition.” She assumes absolute truth does not exist; therefore, Biblical Christianity is wrong, because it teaches absolute truth. This is nothing more than a circular argument. Her argument merely assumes what it is trying to prove.

Here’s the point: The Bible itself teaches that Jesus Christ is an “all-or-nothing proposition.” “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me'” John 14:6. It’s not a matter of churches exerting “authoritarian control” or “top-down control.” It’s a matter of teaching the Truth. As the Apostle Peter, referring to Jesus, said, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Sounds like an “all-or-nothing proposition” to me.

What Tarico is advocating is compromise. And while she is probably correct that compromise will gain and retain more converts, the question becomes, converts to what? If we teach and preach a compromised Gospel, it’s not Gospel at all. As Paul wrote:

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:6-9

When Tarico denounces “theological purity” and “strict interpretation,” she is denouncing the truth. She is absolutely correct when she states, “By making Christian belief an all-or-nothing proposition, they force at least some would-be believers to choose ‘nothing’.” What she doesn’t realize is, believing in “nothing” is no different than believing in a false gospel. Both lead to Hell; neither leads to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Too many churches preach a compromised, false gospel, and are filled with compromised, false Christians, who think they are headed for Heaven, but are bound for Hell. As Jesus said:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” Matthew 7:21-23.

Tarico makes 3 valid points:

  1. Nobody likes pushy people – especially pushy Christians.
  2. Authoritarian control has no place in the church, and
  3. Teaching the truth will turn people away.

The church should have nothing to do with the first two points, but must be uncompromising in its insistence on the truth. God’s truth leads to eternal life; falsehood leads to eternal death.

Tarico and other non-believers cannot understand the things of God, because they choose to suppress the truth (Romans 1:18-19). Yet, they often provide insight that Christians can use to further the Kingdom of God and lead people to Jesus Christ. As we listen to what non-Christians say, we need to filter their words through the Word of God, and glean those things that can help us to reach them with the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Christian Foundation of Atheist Values

What most atheists fail to recognize is that the majority of the beliefs that they value are Christian in origin.  In an April 15, 2012 article posted on www.theage.com.au, atheist Chris Berg acknowledges the Christian foundation of modern secular values.  Berg writes,

Berg

…virtually all the secular ideas that non-believers value have Christian origins. To pretend otherwise is to toss the substance of those ideas away. It was theologians and religiously minded philosophers who developed the concepts of individual and human rights. Same with progress, reason, and equality before the law: it is fantasy to suggest these values emerged out of thin air once people started questioning God.

Bacon

He is, of course, correct.  For example, most atheists highly value the scientific method as the primary means of gaining knowledge.  The scientific method was developed by Sir Francis Bacon – a Christian.  Bacon wrote, “There are two books laid before us to study, to prevent our falling into error; first, the volume of the Scriptures, which reveal the will of God; then the volume of the Creatures, which express His power.”  The scientific method was derived from Biblical principles.

A mantra of atheism is the separation of church and state – the core of atheist political philosophy.  Berg points out the Biblical origins of this concept:

Early Christian philosophers thought seriously about what Jesus’s words, ”Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” meant for the formation of political society.

Another core belief of most atheists if human rights.  Again, Berg points out the Christian origins of human rights:

The idea of human rights was founded centuries ago on Christian assumptions, advanced by Biblical argument, and advocated by theologians. Modern supporters of human rights have merely picked up a set of well-refined ethical and moral arguments.

At the end of his article, Berg makes the following profound statement:

But while our age may be secular, it is, at the same time, still a deeply Christian one. If atheists feel they must rip up everything that came before them, they will destroy the very foundations of that secularism.

I doubt that even Berg understands the implications of this statement.  Since modern atheism is built on a foundation of Christian beliefs, it is ultimately self-refuting!  If atheism is true, then God does not exist;  if God does not exist, then Biblical principles, such as truth, love, human rights, honesty, and reason are meaningless;  and, if these values are meaningless, modern atheism is also meaningless!

Here’s another example:  Atheists typically believe the scientific method is the source of knowledge.  The Humanist Manifesto III states, “Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies.”  The scientific method is predicated on the fact that the universe follows absolute, unchanging, universal laws.  Here’s the paradox:  If there is no God, then why would the universe follow absolute, unchanging, universal laws?  If there is no God, then the universe should be random, and should not follow any laws at all!  Yet, it’s not random; it’s highly organized by absolute physical laws that should not exist if God does not exist.

Chris Berg is correct to recognize the Christian foundation for modern atheist values, but he’s completely missed the implications of this truth:  atheism is self-refuting, and therefore irrational.  Atheism couldn’t exist if it were true.  “If atheists feel they must rip up everything that came before them, they will destroy the very foundations of that secularism.”  If only atheists understood the implications of this statement!

The Conversion of Patrick Greene

Numerous news sources have recently reported the story of Patrick Greene, the former atheist who converted to Christianity.  Greene grew up Catholic, but became an atheist as a young man.  According to the Christian Post,

He says he used to believe in God as a child too, but that ended one Christmas Eve when the members of his family became drunk. He went outside to play with the family dog, and afterward he looked up at the sky and began to wonder why nothing in nature – the dog, the trees – seemed to treat Christmas as a special day.

“That’s what got me…nothing in nature was acting any differently than any other day of the year,” he said.

He also became disillusioned with the Catholic Church when he discovered there were other viewpoints than the ones he had been taught by the church. He says the church taught him they held the only correct view of things, which he disagrees with.

Patrick Greene

Why did Greene become an atheist?  He had questions about his Christian beliefs that apparently nobody could answer reasonably.  1 Peter 3:15 tells Christians to “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”  Apparently, the Christians around Greene either could not or did not do this.  December 25 is in all likelihood not the actual date on which Jesus was born; it is merely the date His birth has traditionally been celebrated.  Even if it were the actual date, there would be no rational reason to expect dogs or trees to act any different on that date than on any other.   As for viewpoints that differ from the teaching of the Catholic Church, I would actually agree somewhat with Greene’s disillusionment.  Neither the Catholic Church, nor any other denomination, has a monopoly on truth; only the Word of God, the Bible, is 100% accurate regarding the truth.  Human interpretations and understanding of God’s perfect truth contained in the Bible are sometimes flawed, because humans are sinful, and have fallen, limited minds.  Perhaps if Greene’s questions had been answered in a reasoned manner, based on Scripture, he might not have become an atheist in the first place.

Greene has been known as a long-time atheist and somewhat as a militant atheist activist.  He hosted an “intro to atheism” show on a local television station in North Carolina, and has sued several cities for their Christmas displays.  He recently threatened to sue Ray Comfort because of  a bumper sticker from Comfort’s ministry suggesting April Fool’s Day should also be called “National Atheist’s Day.”  He received considerable notoriety for threatening to sue Henderson County, Texas, over a Nativity scene that was placed on public land outside the county’s courthouse in Athens.

A short time later, Greene was diagnosed with cataracts and glaucoma, and discovered he was going blind.  Because of his condition, he had to quit his job as a taxi driver.

A local church, Sand Springs Baptist Church, organized a fund-raising campaign for Greene’s medical expenses and other bills.  This caught Greene completely off-guard; why would the very Christians whose beliefs he had ridiculed and threatened to sue over do this for him?  Because of that act of kindness, Greene reconsidered his beliefs.  Again, according to the Christian Post:

“There’s been one lingering thought in the back of my head my entire life, and it’s one thought that I’ve never been able to reconcile, and that is the vast difference between all the animals and us,” Greene told The Christian Post on Tuesday, as he began to explain his recent transformation from atheist to Christian. The theory of evolution didn’t answer his questions, he says, so he just set those questions aside and didn’t think about them anymore… He eventually began to realize that evolution would never have the answer to his questions, he says, and it was at that time he began to believe in God.

Two things seem to have brought Greene to Christ:  Christian love, and the irrational presuppositions of Atheism.  I’ve written about the irrationality of Atheism in other blogs, so I won’t address it again here.  However, when we look again at the end of 1 Peter 3:15 – “…with meekness and fear” – we get a better understanding of what happened to Greene.  Rather than having a prideful superior attitude toward Greene, local Christians showed gentleness and respect toward him, and demonstrated God’s love in a tangible way.  The Holy Spirit then used these actions to melt Greene’s hardness of heart toward God.

Reactions have varied to Greene’s conversion, both from atheists and Christians.  Some say the only reason he converted is because he wants more money.  Atheist PZ Myers ridicules him and calls him a “crank” and an “idiot,” which is pretty much what Myers calls anybody who disagrees with him.  Many Christians are thanking God for his conversion.  A few atheists are blaming themselves for not helping him more in his time in need, and allowing Christians to show more compassion than they did.

What can the Christian learn from the story of Patrick Greene?  First, we should never give up on anyone.  The Holy Spirit can draw anyone to faith in Jesus Christ – even a long-time militant Atheist.  Second, Christian love and compassion will draw more people to Jesus Christ than criticism and condemnation.  And third, Christians must be able to rationally defend the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 5:43-44 (NKJV):  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”