Usually when we hear the word atheist it is used in reference to someone who doesn't believe in God. Based on that definition, the idea of a Christian Atheist seems a little bit absurd. Groeschel defines a Christian Atheist as someone who believes in God (a head knowledge of God) but lives as if He doesn't exist (God has no impact on daily living for that person). That's something I can say has been true of me at times, and I would guess that many others would also say the same thing about theirs lives. It is actually quite easy to believe in God and yet live as if He doesn't exist. Each chapter in the book talks about a different way we can live like God doesn't exist while still saying we believe in Him, and probably even going to church, Bible study, etc every week.
Christian Atheists believe in God but don't really know Him.
Christian Atheists believe in God but they are ashamed of their past.
Christian Atheists believe in God but they aren't sure God loves them.
Christian Atheists believe in God but not in prayer.
Christian Atheists believe in God but don't think He's fair.
Christian Atheists believe in God but won't forgive others.
Christian Atheists believe in God but don't think they can change.
Christian Atheists believe in God but still worry all the time.
Christian Atheists believe in God but pursue happiness at any cost.
Christian Atheists believe in God but trust more in money.
Christian Atheists believe in God but don't share their faith.
Christian Atheists believe in God but not in His church.
I don't know about you but when I read that list I can definitely identify with most of them - some more than others. After I read the chapter titles I was rather unsure of what I would find in the book. It would be easy with chapter titles like that for the book to be one that leaves you feeling alone and defeated. But, instead, I found that Groeschel was incredibly encouraging in what he had to say in each chapter. This was a book that spoke of a personal journey for him. That was definitely encouraging to me - to be reminded that these struggles are common to the family of followers of Jesus.
Groeschel ended the book talking about something he called "third line faith". He lays out a picture of three lines drawn in the sand, representing different places we could be on journey with God. Groeschel describes each line better than I could, so I'll quote him here.
Line 1: I believe in God and the gospel of Christ enough to benefit from it. Like so many others, crossing that first line was easy. Sadly, many who call themselves Christians live here. If there is a God, I want to be on his good side. I want to go to heaven. I want him to bless me with good health, good relationships, and a happy life. Like the nine ungrateful lepers in Luke 17, once God helped me, I forgot about him. (pg. 236).Reading this made sense to me, and challenged me deeply. It really fit in well with the rest of the book for me. I think to close, I will just leave you with the questions that have been in my head since I finished the book - questions that I need to think about and go to God about. Hopefully, they will challenge you to grow in your own journey with God. (And if you're looking for a good read, pick up the book.)
Line 2: I believe in God and Christ's gospel enough to contribute comfortably. Past the first line are people who believe in God not only enough to benefit but also enough to give back - as long as it doesn't cost too much. Many first-line Christians eventually cross the second line. If I don't have to change too much, I'll do some of what God asks. If it doesn't hurt too much, I'll get more serious about God. But everyone has their limits, right? (pg. 236-237).
Line 3: I believe in God and Christ's gospel enough to give my life to it. (pg. 237).
In what areas of my life am I a Christian Atheist? Are there places in my life where I live as though God doesn't exist?
Do I really know God? How can I get to know God better?
Am I ashamed of my past? Will I allow God to redeem my past and use it for His glory?
Do I know that God loves me unconditionally? Am I willing to ask God to help me understand that better?
Do I believe in prayer? Or is it something I think only works for other people?
Do I think that God is unfair? How do deal with things when what has happened in life really doesn't seem fair?
Am I struggling to forgive someone?
Do I doubt that I can change?
Do I still worry all the time? Am I willing to give that up to God?
Am I pursuing happiness at any cost? Or am I pursuing God at any cost?
Am I trusting more in money? Or in God?
Am I sharing my faith?
Am I third-line follower of Christ? Do I want to be? Why?