The above title is also that of a book I read recently, written by Craig Groeschel (published by Zondervan). I won’t give a complete review of the book here, but I will share some of my reactions and highlights of its content. I will begin by imploring my readers to pick up this book and check it out for yourself. It was written by a pastor and therefore, is somewhat pastoral in tone, but it is also one of the most honest and straight-forward books I’ve read.
In the opening pages you find a “letter to the reader” describing the author’s motivation for writing the book, as he relates the stories of two people he sat next to on recent flights. One is a man who outwardly claims to be an atheist, adamantly defending his belief that God does not exist and that people use Christianity merely as a “crutch to avoid the real world” (p. 12). The second person, a young woman, claims to be a Christian and subsequently relates her personal story to Groeschel, sharing how she “gave her life to Jesus” as a teenager. However, she also went on to describe her life honestly, stating “I know my life doesn’t look like a Christian’s life should look, but I do believe in God” (p. 14). Essentially, Groeschel concludes that the young woman who claims to have given her life to Jesus leads a life that doesn’t really look any different that the atheist. He goes on to describe “christian atheism” as hypocrisy expressed in various ways.
The author speaks largely out of his own personal experience, bravely bearing his soul to the reader and admonishing his own struggles with christian atheism. With a deeply honest and warm tone, he addresses twelve areas in which people often struggle with hypocrisy. Each chapter title begins with “When you believe in God but…” then concludes with things like “…don’t really know him,” “are ashamed of your past,” “don’t think He’s fair,” “won’t forgive,” “not in His church,” etc. In each chapter, he utilizes personal stories, research statistics, and humor to address these difficult issues head on. By the end of the chapter, he asks the reader to answer a few key questions, then gives some insight, advice, and encouragement for those who want to change.
This book drew out various emotions and thoughts as I read it. Early on I was encouraged to assess if I simply believe in God or if I actually know Him on a personal level. To be honest, at times I felt my ever-familiar self-doubt and fear rising to the surface as I asked myself some tough questions. I also had to think about my personal struggles with feelings of shame and guilt, doubting whether or not God actually loves me, and questioning my own motives for much of my behavior and beliefs. This book was first and foremost convicting–it’s always uncomfortable realizing your own faults and shortcomings–but it was also thoroughly encouraging. It was as if in each chapter Craig was sitting across a table from me over coffee and telling me, “you’re wrong, you’re messed up; I know because I’ve been there and still struggle, you’re not alone; there’s hope, there’s forgiveness, and there’s healing.” Overall, the book left me feeling uplifted and hopeful, as if I had been counseled by a close friend. However, it also left me feeling determined to live my life differently in light of the Gospel; to attack my personal hypocrisy head on and to honestly assess how well my behaviors actually line up with my christian beliefs.
Conclusion: To the Reader
I know this post is brief and not remotely comprehensive, that is why I strongly recommend reading this book for yourself. Wherever you may be spiritually and however you identify yourself when it comes to faith, I am sure this book will challenge you to take a closer look at your life and belief system. I don’t know if you will love it or hate it, but I do know that you will not regret this read.
Please read and share your own thoughts and reactions in the comments below.
Thanks for reading,
See link below to find “The Christian Atheist” at Barnes & Noble