“Christianity is something that if you really believed it, it would change your life
and you would want to change the lives of others. I haven’t seen too much of that.”
Michael, a Christian turned atheists and quoted in The Atlantic magazine.
Larry Taunton, Executive Director of apologetics ministry of the Fixed Point Foundation, recently initiated a nationwide campaign inviting active members of atheist student groups to share what led them to unbelief. The findings of the study startled Taunton: without exception each student said that there was a disconnect between the claims of the Christian faith and the lives of professing Christians. To be clear – not one student expected to find perfect lives among professing Christians. Each of these students was above average in intelligence and had a firm grasp on the human condition. We are imperfect people.
What led each student to becoming an atheist was that they saw no evidence of the power of the Christian faith to change lives. The church preaches and teaches about this power of God that is at work in the world and in the lives of followers of Jesus. If it was true, where’s the evidence? People in the church looked exactly like people who didn’t belong to the church. People in the church behaved and spoke exactly like people who didn’t belong to church. People in the church would give financially about two to three percent of their income to the church – no different than people outside of the church giving to charitable causes. Where was the sacrifice? Simply, perfection wasn’t expected, but effort was.
It is sobering to realize that each of us may be partially culpable for the growing unbelief in our nation today. We speak about the power of God – or at least pay a pastor to speak about it on our behalf. But where is the evidence? What those atheists failed to understand is that the Christian faith is a participatory activity – lives don’t become different simply because we say, “I believe.” The Bible teaches that we have a responsibility to make an effort, to practice certain spiritual habits like regularly reading the Bible and intentionally applying to our lives what we understand the Bible to say. The promise of the faith is that the power of God shows up when there is effort on our part.
Perhaps these students with above average intelligence didn’t know that important aspect of the faith – that God’s power meets our effort. Could it be that they didn’t know because Christians never taught them? Or is the difficulty simply that the Christians they witnessed simply never bothered to follow an intentional path to spiritual growth?