on April 29, 2010
It should be easy to spot people who really believe that God exists and Jesus was who he claimed to be, because they should be acting as if God is an ever-present part of their reality, and yet surveys tend to show that there is very little difference in the way people who claim to be Christians behave when compared to others. Craig Groeschel explores why this is so in this book.
The book examines a number of ways in which Christians fail to act consistently with their stated beliefs: not really knowing God, remaining ashamed of your past, being unsure of God's love for you, not believing in prayer, not trusting that God is fair, failing to forgive, not believing that you can change, clinging to worry, pursuing happiness at any cost, trusting more in money than in God, not sharing your faith, and not being part of the church.
The book demonstrates that a lack of faith can be manifested in many different ways, and it points out what are likely to be some key areas of sin in the reader's life, although it does this in a non-judgemental way because the author confesses that he commits the same sins. This is a very well-written book which anyone who claims to be a Christian would benefit from reading.
on April 4, 2011
The title of this book tells you automatically that it is going to be a challenging read. The idea behind "Christian Atheist" is that while many people call themselves "Christians" or "followers of Christ," it is rare to find people that take their discipleship under Christ seriously.
Groeschel, the pastor of LifeChurch.tv and innovator in the "satellite church" phenomenon, leads you through 12 different "When you believe in God, but..." scenarios. These scenarios range from not believing in prayer to not sharing your faith. Groeschel brings all of these scenarios back to the 1st commandment (You shall have no other gods). The issue isn't that you don't like to forgive people, it is that your "god" is not the God who forgives, it isn't that you don't like going to church, it's that your "god" wants to sleep in on Sundays or thinks it's too advanced for your boring local church.
Groeschel does a much better job of treating the issues of sanctification (growing through the Holy Spirit leading you in good works) than same other pop-Christian authors who write about the same topic. At least Groeschel usually brings things back to Jesus, to forgiveness, and to your state as a redeemed child of God. It isn't often that he's over the line, but it happens occasionally (like when he tells you that if giving your offering doesn't hurt, it's not good enough). Usually, however, he's right on with the Law - accusing you of making yourself or something else your god and calling yourself a Christian all the while.
Unfortunately, I do have to say that "usually" Groeschel brings it back to Jesus. The most disappointing thing about the book is the Afterword. In this Afterword, Groeschel wrecks everything that he has just lined up. In a story about a vision from God, Groeschel calls into question the faith of every Christian that hasn't reached his level of sanctification. (Insert annoyed groans of disappointment.) Instead of showing us that a true Christian rejects false gods and the false securities that come along with those false gods - he constructs for himself a false god of his own piety. That move ruins the rest of the book.
I repeat: If you read the book, don't bother with the Afterword. It will absolutely ruin an otherwise good book for you.
on April 12, 2010
I've never read any of Groeschel's books before. This book stood out to me in the bookstore with its red cover and the words "Christian" and "atheist" juxtaposed. I've been reading several different books lately on how to be a better Christian, and this fit right in. Christian atheist is just a catchy term to suck the reader in, and it worked for this reader.
While I didn't find it as hard-hitting as other reviewers, Pastor Craig does make some good points. The chapters on worry and forgiveness are the best. The chapters on money and some others aren't as strong, and the points he makes aren't as profound. I'd wish he go into more detail on how to handle certain issues. He brings up Christian singles who want to meet that special someone, and suggests they visit gatherings of those with similar morals. Outside of church, and some volunteering, I am still trying to meet such people!
Pastor Craig is at his best when confessing his own faults. While he is not as overly dramatic as Jimmy Swaggert, he does admit to more than the fairly innocuous admissions you may hear in a typical Sunday sermon. This is where he is at his most real.
This is still a good read on how to be a better Christian, but the title of the book implies something more. I thought that Francis Chan's "Crazy Love" made similar points but with a more radical approach and I enjoyed it better. I'd also recommend John Ortberg's "When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box".
I am glad I read this book, but it feels a little like having a snack of three grapes and a whole wheat cracker when I really need a full meal. Healthy, just not quite enough to completely nourish me.
The title by itself will hopefully bring many of us up short. How often do I personally act like a "Christian Atheist" under Groeschel's definition? Too many times, and each section of the book points out the many ways I blithely go on my way as if God doesn't exist, or at least doesn't have any real part in my life. The book is a good quick read if for no other reason than to remind each of us how little we really live out our faith. Just reading the table of contents can be convicting, as each section points out ways our behavior might really be no different than that of someone with no knowledge of or interest in Christianity.
I think I would class this as an airport book--it is well worth picking up for a quick read while flying or for a break from more significant reading. It could well be a book to share with someone close to you who may also be afflicted with "Christianity Lite," living too often without any real evidence of our faith. While the book does have the effect of reminding us of the need for increased integration of our faith into all facets of our lives, Groeschel is not as clear as I would like in pointing to "next steps" to get us out of these behaviors. Just knowing how we have fallen into this "Christian atheism" is one thing, but a little more follow up in emphasizing closer fellowship with the Word, deeper prayer, and with other believers would have given the book more weight.
One more comment--I agree with an earlier reader that the final section of the book is very disappointing. Yes, our sanctification (a "church-y" word that the author wisely avoids for his apparent audience) does need to progress across the "three lines of faith" he outlines. However, he makes it sound like a one-way street, like once achieving the willingness to give our all to Christ, we will never return from there--almost a "once holy, always holy" approach. Since the rest of the book reflects the ongoing working of grace in our lives, the opportunity the Spirit gives us to repent and turn from recurrent "Christian atheism," I would forego that section and read only the rest.
on October 27, 2012
What does it mean to call oneself a "Christian" today? I imagine that the number of variations in answers would be equal to the number of people who respond "yes" when they are asked if they self-identify as a "Christian." And can a person who calls themself a Christian also be an atheist, someone who simultaneously believes that God does, and does not, exist? While this latter possibility may be rare, as far as one person saying that both Christianity and atheism are true for them, Craig Groeschel believes that such a combination is the functional faith of many Christians. These are the people he writes for in the Christian atheist, which bears the apt subtitle: Believing in God but Living as If He Doesn't Exist.
Groeschel speaks from personal experience, although his credentials wouldn't make you think so. He is the founding and senior pastor of a multi-site church in Oklahoma. He is also married and the father of six children. Yet as he takes a look at his own life he sees many of the same issues of professing belief in one thing but living in a different manner in his daily life, something that he also sees within the congregation he pastors and in Christians throughout the United States.
Each of the chapter titles begins "When you believe in God but..." The "but" demonstrates the disconnect between faith and an aspect of life, such as "...but don't really know Him," "...but are ashamed of your past," "...but not in prayer," "...but still worry all the time," and "...but not in His church." Groeschel walks through each of his topics, demonstrating the difference between how people often live and what they believe. He then discusses what the Bible says about the topic and then provides examples of what life could look like, examples that call his readers to a more mature expression of their own faith in God. And he does this all in a manner that I find to be very gentle and pastoral.
One example is found in the chapter on dealing with the shame of one's past, where he writes, "We are not our sins. And we're also not what others have done to us. Rather, we are who God says we are: his children. We are forgivable. We are changeable. We are capable. We are moldable. And we are bound by the limitless love of God." (52)
Groeschel has a humble tone and knows well each of the areas he discusses, from both his own personal life and the lives of those he shepherds in his congregation. His guidance is practical and faithful to Biblical teaching. I could go on and on but instead will close, giving this book an unreserved recommendation. If there is a disconnect in your own life as a Christian, Groeschel has written something that will likely help on your journey. Even if he doesn't address your specific issue a thoughtful reader will be able to adapt his wisdom to their particular situation. And in the end it is not really so much about our personal faith but the way in which we bear witness to God, they ways in which we serve and glorify Him in the world.
on June 18, 2011
This disappointing book has a misleading subtitle--it's supposedly about helping people who believe in God but live as if He doesn't exist, yet most of the book is made up of the author's personal failures and how God forgives people anything. Instead of upholding Godly standards or setting guidelines for Christian living, it's mostly about trying to do away with shame and guilt by focusing completely on God's grace, where you can live however you want and not feel bad about it.
The people he talks about in the book are not "Christian atheists." He has a very broad view of what it means to be a Christian (he was raised Methodist apparently but doesn't get specific in the book--all he tells us is he went to church twice a year and had a Bible in the home that he never read) and an atheist (here defined as living like God doesn't exist, which is different from believing that God doesn't exist). Most of the people in the book are believers who don't hold themselves to godly standards--that's not the same as being an atheist.
This writer is now the pastor of a huge church with multiple locations--yet this book seems to dwell on his need to constantly confess to his own sins. He tells us about everything from his having an affair in college with his buddy's girlfriend to stealing a pack of gum as a kid. The book appears to be his way of still dealing with his own guilt and shame. Yet instead of stepping up and concluding that Christians today are not choosing to do right, instead he concludes that they're not choosing to accept God's forgiveness. Those are two very different choices and instead of him exhorting followers to do right in the first place, he emphasizes the need for do-badders to instead forgive themselves.
His response to "Christian atheists" in every chapter is one of empathy and emotion--if you sin, then God "cares" and "hurts." That is true but where is the corresponding reflection on God's disappointment and holding believers accountable? The God of the Bible that the writer claims to preach is a God who shows many other responses to sin than just caring and hurting. The author goes out of his way to claim that the big, mean punishing God of the past is not accurate--yet that is what causes "believers" to live like He doesn't exist. If they can say they follow Him yet are never held accountable for their actions, then there is no purpose for really living their faith.
The author doesn't seem to see that he is preaching the very thing that causes Christians to act like non-believers. He is emphasizing all the wrong things. People can hear from any unbelieving pop psychologist that they shouldn't feel guilty about a terrible sin or that they shouldn't feel shame for their past. What takes guts (and true love) is to let people know that they are making bad choices with consequences--and that the New Testament says that they will be held accountable. So instead of encouraging people to stop doing a specific act, he instead focuses on encouraging them to "stop worrying." No! They should be worrying about what they are doing that displeases God! He represents the modern church's tossing away of God's specific commands and its focus on soft emotional support for those who don't want to feel guilty.
This guy also wallows in tragedies. His brother-in-law died at 34, his little sister revealed she was molested as a child, he mother has strokes, his church is filled with people having affairs, illnesses and deaths. He makes some odd choices for story examples and illustrates his points with negatives instead of positives. (He also started a really weird website where people can confess their sins--so you can go on and read story after story of people's sinfulness with no resolution!)
A few times he wanders into almost recommending some standards (like questioning two young women going to see R-rated Wedding Crashers for a second time) but he never quite gets to the point where he is willing to take much of a stand. He does make the bold statement, "God doesn't want us to be happy," but then squanders the chance to bring it home in a meaningful way by comparing it to a five-year-old disobeying her parents by riding a zipline. Most of his stories are the standard messages of forgiving others, not confusing workaholism with serving God and trusting God to turn bad situations into something positive. But the book says almost nothing that hasn't been seen in other recent wishy-washy bestsellers from people like Joel Osteen. The one specific standard he brings up, like most evangelical pastors, is that people should be giving financially until is hurts--a typical message from someone who lives off donations and admits that he overbuilt a ministry that has bills to pay.
In the end he doesn't fulfill the subtitle's claim--he doesn't really teach Christians how to live the life they say they believe in. It's a touchy-feely Christianity that fails to uphold what believers needs to do to live what they believe. On one hand I'm surprised such bland theology can attract a large audience, but on the other hand Groeschel reflects exactly what's wrong with Christianity today by failing to require that people live up to God's standards.
on April 18, 2010
My husband and I are pastors and we want everyone in our congregation to read this book, because it gets to the heart of the issue of what it means to be a christian. We believe so many people are so misinformed when it comes to christianity and The Christian Athiest with its gut level honesty, humour and biblical truth redefines the term "christian". I want thank Craig Groeschel for stepping up to the plate and being open and honest as he lives these truths out and shares it with us.
My thoughts on this book can be summed up in two words: Sigh and Yawn. First, the sigh.
I have been intrigued by this book for a while and finally picked it up at the local store looking forward to hearing a pastor talk about believing in Christ while living as if we don't. The phrase, "Christian atheist" is a provocative one and it presents interesting inroads into some pastoral work.
Instead of thought-provoking work, the book is a string of stories supported by a few verses here and there and punch-lines. Every chapter goes like this: catchy title, story of the down-and-outer, verse, repeat story and verse four or five more times, a little bit of surface Scriptural work, punch-line. I don't know exactly what I expected when I picked up the book, but I was fairly underwhelmed with the product.
The Yawn is pretty self explanatory. Every chapter was essentially the same with variations on the stories and themes. All the actual biblical and spiritual work was simple bordering on simplistic. The illustrations - not unlike many sermons preached each week - overwhelmed the biblical insights and the vision of Christ this topic could have developed.
If you are looking for a simple and easy to read pick-me-up with lots of stories, this book really might be a help to you. If, however, you want to really dig into the very real problem of "Christian atheists," this book might come up a little short for you.
It doesn't take much of a stretch to say that many, if not most, American Christians live like Christian atheists. Sure, we have Christian values (whatever that means in your particular Christian circle), we attend church, maybe even several days a week, maybe even in leadership, we listen to Christian music, we have Christian friends. But how much of that fully acknowledges God's role in our lives? This question has troubled me for a long time. If I have a non-existent devotional life, if I don't consult or acknowledge God in my daily decisions, and if I otherwise live without daily interaction with him, I guess I'm counted among the Christian atheists.
When I saw the title of Craig Groeschel's book, I knew I had to take a look. Groeschel is founder and pastor of LifeChurch.tv, one of those church names that makes me groan on a number of levels. Even though the church follows that multi-campus, marketing driven, seeker-friendly, ultra-hip model that makes me sick, I have to give him credit for reaching lots of people. As the domain name in the church name suggests, they are spread over several locations in several states, linked together by technological means.
I have never heard Groeschel preach, but I am thinking that The Christian Atheist must reflect his teaching/preaching style. One the plus side, he uses lots of personal stories, both from his own life and from people in his church and who he has met. He's not one to get stories from "Sermon Illustrations Weekly"; he brings real lives of real people into his teaching. Groeschel covers many of the ways I live as a Christian atheist: not praying, doubting his total love for me, questioning his sovereignty, trusting in my efforts and money for my needs, not sharing my faith. In much of the content, he addresses the typical American pagan, who thinks he's a Christian but who has never made a decision to follow Christ, but much applies to people like me, who have been Christ followers, but who go through the motions of faith and church, and don't live in communication and relationship with God on a daily basis.
Ultimately I was disappointed in the book. It showed Groeschel's engaging style, but lacked much substance. The target audience would be the seeker, without a background in Christian teaching and theology, which probably makes sense. I get the impression that's who he preaches to every week. For someone who has been immersed in church life and Christian teaching, there's nothing new here, and what is here is pretty superficial. That's not to say it's completely without value, but I will say the value is quite limited. I guess it will take a lot more than Groeschel's book to break me out of my Christian atheism.
When I read the title, "The Christian Atheist," my interest was definitely piqued! I was not familiar with the author, Craig Groeschel, but with endorsements by Francis Chan, Andy Stanley, Brian Houston, Dave Ramsey, and Bill Hybels, I figured this was a MUST read. I was right!
Too many "Christians" are professing their faith...but no living it. Pastor Craig Groeschel cuts to the heart and prompts you to self examine your life as a Christian, but does so with such an amazing humble attitude...it still amazes me he pulled it off! Pastor Groeschel uses his own life experiences in a relevant and powerful way...exposing his own faults and weaknesses as a Christian in order to open the heart of the reader. Each Chapter will take you through most of the main ways in which Christians are "claiming" to know God, but by their actions denying Him. You might be surprised at how you're own faith measures up. This isn't a "quick" read. You'll want to read each chapter and then pray and ask God to examine your heart and reveal the areas that need some work. Yes, Pastor Groeschel is out to convict Christians, but not condemn. "The Christian Atheist" is a message that is calling God's people to live out the faith that they profess. I can't imagine a better book to grow and develop your faith!