Hello, My Name is Jim and I’m a Functional Atheist [in Recovery]…

HELP UNBELIEFFunctional Atheism.  Though he never formally employs those words, I was first introduced to the concept by Craig Groeshel in his book, The Christian Atheist: Believing in God But Living as If He Doesn’t Exist.  (Here, Groeshel might have given words to the notion – helping me to formally title and acknowledge it in my life and living.  Truth is, at deeper parts of my being, I “knew” it already.  It was [and is] a part of my experience.)

As an aside, I can’t help but share words from Craig’s introduction – stirring for the ways they convey the topic, startling (in this day and time) for the ways he invokes the word “pandemic”:

“Hi, my name is Craig Groeschel, and I’m a Christian Atheist.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve believed in God, but I haven’t always lived like he exists. Today my Christian Atheism isn’t as large of a problem as it once was, but I still struggle with it. Like a recovering alcoholic careful never to take sobriety for granted, I have to take life one day at a time.

You might think it’s odd for a pastor to struggle with living like there is no God. However, in my corner of the world, Christian Atheism is a fast-spreading spiritual pandemic which can poison, sicken, and even kill…  Yet Christian atheism is extremely difficult to recognize — especially by those who are infected. (Groeschel, p. 17)

Attending a Leadership Transformations workshop on “Spiritual Discernment” recently had me staring it in the eyes afresh.  Workshop leader, David Wu, gave introduction to the day with two quotes—one from the Scriptures and one from a preferred text on the topic:

 Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
(Proverbs 3:5-7a, The Message)

God wants everyone to know God’s will. God doesn’t withhold grace, play games, or tease us to test our faithfulness or our worthiness to be trusted with divine insight. I am convinced that God is far more prone to human revelation than I am to divine encounter. God’s will is that you and I, everyone, and our faith communities should discern and act upon God’s will.  (Danny Morris, Yearning to Know God’s Will, pp. 9f.)

Hearing/reading those words –
really taking them in,
slowly and deeply…

trust God [with all your heart],

don’t try to figure everything out on you own,

listen for God’s voice in everything [and everywhere],

don’t assume you know it all,

God is far more prone to revelation,…

Yes, reading, hearing, taking those words in
has the prayer of the old soul coming
to heart and mind and voice in me:
“I believe.  Help, Thou, my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Being a perfectionist by nature
(and an often unhealthy “one,” at that)
can have me kicking myself–
stirring up all sorts of guilt and shame.
“Jim, you ought to trust more!”
“What a hypocrite!”
“How long have you been at this?”
“Surely, you should be a lot further along in this journey than you are!”

Yes, such are the voices inside—
to which I could give more and more attention.

But, instead,
I discern
and chose
to listen
to a stiller, small voice within.
It calls me
to accept
who and where and how I am…
and to be grateful
for the Divine
Who is not yet finished with any of us.

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