Lent and Atheism

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Hmmm. Yes, Lent and atheism.

About six years ago I came across what Craig Groeschel called “Christian atheism.” In its simplest form, it means believing in God but living as if he does not exist. It is what the Bible calls idolatry: rather than worshiping and yielding to God as he is, we create a god in our own image. Made in the image of God, we make a god in our image who conforms to our expectations. Those poor people made gods of stone and metal and wood. We make gods in our imaginations. Far more subtle and dangerous. It is easy to know that I am bowing before a golden image. It is far harder to discern when I am bowing before a god of my imagination.

If we take seriously the spiritual journey that Lent offers we will see this atheism for what it is. We will allow God’s Spirit to reveal where and how we bow to ourselves or others. Am I seeking God’s will? Or am I weaving a myth in which God wants for me what I want? Convenient. And deadly.

The other atheism that Lent brings to mind is more subtle but also necessary. On the day of Jesus’ death that we will soon observe, Jesus cries from the cross “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?” The weeks that remain before Good Friday allow us to ask – What if God isn’t there? What if God were to abandon us? What if God were not there and is as much our imagining as the idols we make in our hearts?

This may not seem right – to wander into doubt and uncertainty. This Lent I wonder if that is indeed a place to go. Pondering what would be if God were not. Or if God were not interested in our lives and well-being. Not to believe that God is not but to understand more fully what it means to live as if he isn’t in the subtle illusion of a functional atheism that is as bad as not believing at all.

To recognize anew our utter need for God. Our entire dependence on Christ. To hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit always speaking into mind and heart.

This Lent join me in seeing where our faith is in ourselves more than in the Self Beyond All Selves. Ask where I want what I want – and always left wanting. The looming death of Christ invites us to seek the death of the atheism in us that robs the death of Jesus of its power to transform and make whole.

May our idols die. May our atheism yield.

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