Are You a Functioning Atheist?

Are You a Functioning Atheist?

I’m concerned with the level of functional atheism that exists in the church of Jesus Christ.

Yes, we believe that God exists, that he created the heavens and the earth, that the Bible is accurate, and that paradise awaits, but we often live—at a functional level—as if there is no God.

We worry too much. We control too much. We demand too much. We regret too much. We run after God replacements too much. We do all these things because we have forgotten God’s presence, power, and glory.

If you look around and look at yourself, you’ll see evidence of functional atheism everywhere in the lives of Christians.

This week, how many thoughts did you have, words did you speak, or decisions did you make that omitted the Lord from your process entirely?

It’s embarrassing to admit my functional atheism to you, but I’m not always good at preaching the gospel to myself or allowing it to influence everything I think, say, and do, even though I teach it to others publicly.

This devotional has reminded me again that I can’t share truths that I don’t first desperately need myself. If I ever stop being the first audience of my writing, I should stop writing. As you read my material, please remember me and pray for me. Pray that God will help me to live, with courage and hope, the things that I write.

There’s another side to functional atheism that we need to be aware of. Maybe we aren’t as extreme to assess our lives in a God-absent way, but perhaps the God we remember is small, distant, disconnected, uncaring, and seemingly unwise.

In ways we don’t realize, we experience trouble not only because of the stress of life in a broken world but also because of how we interpret the character, size, and strength of the God who rules that brokenness.

Many people have talked to me about the Lord in the middle of their difficulties, and after listening to them, I have been struck that if I believed in the same “God” they described, I’d be in a panic too.

So where do we go from here? Humbly admitting our vulnerability to functional atheism is the first step. But then we need to ask for help.

Ask the Lord to give you spiritual eyes that see his infinite grandeur everywhere. You cannot correctly understand your life and make God-honoring choices unless you look at it through the lens of a God-centered worldview. God first, God all the time.

Pray also that God would grace you with the wisdom and strength to avoid measuring the size and nearness of God by assessing your circumstances. Your interpretation of God will never be either accurate or stable if you’ve arrived at it by trying to figure out what he is doing in the situations in your life.

When your Lord answers these prayers—and he will—your heart will be progressively washed clean of the cynicism, doubt, fear, discouragement, anxiety, worry, and control that defines functional atheism.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

1. What words did you speak or actions did you take this week that omitted God from your process? Did you intentionally ignore his glory, or was it a matter of forgetfulness?

2. How can a biblical worldview change your words and actions today? Be specific and consider what you will experience today. What do you need to remember to influence God-honoring decisions?

3. Consider a time, in the past or present, when you judged God based on your momentary circumstances and not on who he reveals himself to be in Scripture? How did that affect your faith?

4. How can you be a tool of sight and remembrance in the life of another believer this week? What truths does God want to communicate with them, and how can you be a willing instrument in the Redeemer’s hands?

This article originally appeared here.

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Paul David Tripp is a pastor, author, and international conference speaker. He is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries and works to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. This vision has led Paul to write many books on Christian living and travel around the world speaking and teaching. Paul's driving passion is to help people understand how the gospel of Jesus Christ speaks with practical hope into all the things people face in this broken world. Paul and his wife Luella reside Philadelphia. They are the parents of four grown children.