I bet you thought it would never happen! Orange County is home to two mega-churches that are known around the country, namely Saddleback Church and The Crystal Cathedral. More than that there are several other mega churches spread out around Orange County, such as First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, or Eastside Christian Church, not to mention my own church home, Orange County Church of Christ. Orange County is also home to Biola University, a Christian university which has the world’s best Apologetics Master’s Degree program in the world. With all this Christianity around our county, I believe we have simply become lazy. We just assumed that everyone here is religious, and will therefore take the Bible seriously when we present it to them. Because of this, there is no need to actually think critically about religion and provide sound arguments for our faith because there is no need to prove to someone what they already believe.
Well clearly this is not the case. Backyard Skeptics is a group of Atheists in Orange County who have banded together to provide a place “where humanists, rational thinkers, atheists and agnostics have a place to explore the world without religious dogma.” Recently they have erected a Billboard in Santa Ana accusing religion of being “mythology” and “superstition.” The billboard can be viewed at the Edinger exit on the northbound 55 Freeway. So anyone who has been sitting on the fence, wondering whether or not Christianity is true will now be potentially pulled toward this group that will strengthen their belief that religion is nonsense. Gone are the days when you can assume that the stranger you intend to share your faith with will be convicted simply by hearing a passage from the Bible. Gone are the days when we can pass the communion cup to our fellow brethren and enjoy peaceful fellowship never once imagining that our faith in God would be challenged. Gone are the days when it would be considered taboo to ridicule someone’s religion by calling it superstition. Gone are the days when we could justify our faith simply by saying that our faith precludes logic. The Atheist community has caught us sleeping on our post and has launched a frontal attack.
Some Christians might see this as a minor issue. After all there are other groups like the Mormons, or Jehovah’s Witnesses that are also evangelizing people away from the one true God, so what difference could one more group make? It is not that simple. In our churches, very few of our people are equipped to present a rational case for Christianity. But in these Atheist groups, most of their time is spent researching, preparing, and rehearsing arguments for Atheism. In any given church congregation, there are usually one or two people who are considered the Apologist that other church members can go to have their faith strengthened. Atheist groups on the other hand are made up almost entirely of antitheistic Apologists. Atheists are using logic and rationality to make their case that “religion is prison,” while we are still relying on “faith” that God exists. We need to start using rationality and logic as well less we prove these Atheists right.
Atheists refer to themselves as “free-thinkers” implying that we only believe what we are told to. This is interesting considering Jesus’ statement to his dicsiples “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?” (Luke 12:57)
Atheists call themselves rationalists, implying that we are irrational. Interestingly it says in Isaiah 1:18 ”Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD”
Atheists call themselves humanists, implying that we don’t care about humanity. However, according to Christian belief, God, who made humans in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27), and who loves humans enough to take the penalty of sin on himself (Romans 5:8), appears to be a humanist.
Atheists call themselves skeptics, implying that we are not skeptical. However, 1 Thessalonians 5:21 tells us that we are to “test all things.”
This nomenclature that the Atheist community has adopted gives rise to a whole host of misunderstandings of what Christianity is. The Atheist community thinks that we as Christians hold our beliefs for mere pragmatic reasons. In other words, Christianity makes us feel good, gives us comfort, or generally causes us to live a better life. On this misunderstanding a person could be a Christian while knowing that Christianity is objectively false. As long as the belief produces its intended effect, the truth or falsity of the belief is more or less irrelevant.
This is completely contrary to scripture. Paul said that “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is uselessand so is your faith!” (1 Corinthians 15:14) So according to scripture, faith doesn’t remain useful if Christianity is falsified. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then our religion is a complete waste of time! If there are any Christians reading this now who are maintaining their religion purely for pragmatic reasons, I challenge you to start loving God “with all your mind!” (Luke 10:27) As Peter said we must “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15).
The rise of Atheism as a movement has been accompanied by several attacks on Christianity. Claims have been made that Jesus fits the description of other ancient dying and rising gods of Greco-Roman history, that the Bible is full of nonsense that no rational person should believe, and that God’s existence is just as unlikely as the existence of the “Flying Spaghetti Monster.” These attacks cannot go unchallenged. Paul said in2 Corinthians 10:5 that we are to “demolish arguments and everything that sets itself up against the knowledge of Christ.” The Atheists have thrown down the gauntlet. We must now pick it up.