I’ve been venturing into dangerous waters recently—putting my soul in jeopardy—by visiting and listening in on various blog conversations of atheists. There are probably many atheists who don the title for the sheer novelty of it, or because they have a yearning for nonconformity, or because they heartily enjoy a good mud slinging session. But there are also atheists I’ve encountered through blog or books (or agnostics such as Bart Ehrman), who left mainstream Christianity and developed anti-religion mantra for what I now see as very legitimate reasons.
In the past, I generally and quietly dismissed atheists as inferior beings who either didn’t want to live by the rules or who were sadly, perhaps willfully deceived. All this and I never once even asked them WHY they became an atheist or attempted to listen to them. In fact, if I did have a conversation with one, I am sure I was so convinced I was right that I didn’t even give their reasonable objections a chance to see daylight. If you are an atheist reading this blog, I humbly ask your forgiveness for dismissing you so blindly, pridefully, and callously. Many of you were far more right and more insightful than I.
With what I have learned about the Bible and Church history in the past three years—when and how many of our “sacred” Church dogmas and doctrines were formed as well as the prolific errors and contradictions in our popular Bible translations—I might well have become an atheist myself. What stopped me?
For me, there is foremost the undeniable evidence of a God who has interacted with me continuously and personally throughout my life, and who has orchestrated the details of my life in profound and tangible ways. There are just too many miraculous, amazing details for them all to be coincidences. Of course this is completely subjective evidence, but nevertheless, to me, it is undeniable. On the other hand, what to do with all of the counter evidence, thoughtfully and convincingly brought into the light by many of my unbelieving friends?
Thankfully, by learning* the truths hidden beneath the surface of translation errors, and especially beginning to learn (still have a long way to go) the ancient perspectives and intent on Scripture that help unravel the translation corrections, I have not come to the conclusion of atheism or agnosticism. Instead I have encountered a God who makes sense, even in light of many of the legitimate questions of atheists. My ignorance of and unbelief in His true character were the result of being ingrained with traditions of men since childhood, yet I was fully convinced my belief system was above error.
What do I now see in the truer character of God? I see a Loving Father who never entertained the thought of giving up on even one of His children—a Father who disciplines all of His children with an intent for their good, whose mercy triumphs over judgment, and who has determined a full-circle plan of reconciliation for ALL of His offspring. This Father doesn’t play favorites, though He does include some of His children ahead of the rest in helping to work His plan for ALL. He plainly stated His plan as early as Abraham, in a Covenant with mankind called the Abrahamic Covenant:
“Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 28:14. See also Col. 1:15-20; Acts 3:19–21; Rom. 5:18; 1 Cor. 15:22-28).
This is a hard idea to process and accept for certain individuals I’ve talked to who feel they have spent time paying dues as “members of The Club,” expecting membership to have its exclusive privileges. This is exactly how the Jews felt back in the days of Paul when they were first told that they were not the only ones who would be saved from death and brought into the Kingdom of God—now the Gentiles (nations) were being invited into The Club as well. This made the Jews very angry and jealous! When Paul was persecuted by the Jews, I believe this is the reason why—they wanted to shut him up from proclaiming salvation to the nations (see Rom. 11:11-12).
I’m really not encouraging most Christians to rush out recklessly into water over their heads (especially if they can’t swim) . If you don’t have the right foundation in place—if you don’t know or understand the true character and plan of God—your faith might be shipwrecked (or you might do more damage than good with others). But I am encouraging us all to start listening to people, and to start studying the Bible and Church history for ourselves instead of having everything interpreted for us. We are living in amazing times when solid information is just a click away and not locked away in stuffy libraries God knows where. I believe this is a gift offered to our generation that must not be squandered away by laziness or indifference.
So what is my conclusion? For me, even in light of the many questions that still don’t have clear or satisfying answers (YET), the God I now find in Scriptures is absolutely worth taking a chance on.
In the next entry, we’ll explore this topic a little further by looking at one or two objections of interest I came across this week. Perhaps we can listen in and learn together. In the mean time, have you been harboring a superior attitude toward those who question the beliefs of Christianity? Have you ever taken the time to really listen to them and consider the value of their questions?
*A great place to start is by using an Interlinear Bible and a Lexicon, both free online tools. The Interlinear Bible is a word-for-word translation from Greek or Hebrew to English (showing both words and usually Strong’s Concordance numbers) where you can begin to learn amazing insights and see errors for yourself by comparing passages to your favorite Bible translation. A Lexicon is a way for you to look up a Greek or Hebrew word in order to see all the ways it is used in certain translations. This is enlightening when you want to uncover inconsistencies or gain greater understanding of the meanings of words.