Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On Atheists

Below is a recent exchange from The Jesus Creed Blog, edited slightly to remove cryptic references. What do you think of it? Does every spiritual community need an atheist to keep it honest?

“I feel a closeness and kinship to anyone who struggles to know God.”

Right with you there.

And I feel a similar kinship with devout atheists and anyone actively seeking to discredit spirituality, for I see the work of the Spirit in them - they just don’t know it yet.

But the in-between stuff, the comfort zones - that’s not interesting to me. Spirit is fluid and disruptive.

In his Letters from Prison, Bonhoeffer shared something of great importance,

“I often ask myself why a ‘Christian instinct’ often draws me more to the religionless people than to the religious, but which I don’t in the least mean with any evangelizing intention, but, I might almost say, “in brotherhood.” While I’m often reluctant to mention God by name to religious people – because that name somehow seems to me here not to ring true, and I feel myself to be slightly dishonest (it’s particularly bad when others start to talk in religious jargon; I then dry up almost completely and feel awkward and uncomfortable) – to people with no religion I can on occasion mention him by name quite calmly and as a matter of course…”

Another personal hero, A.W. Tozer, said something that seems equally appropriate to this conversation,

“if someone can talk you into being a Christian, someone better can talk you out of it.”

Comment by John L — May 10, 2008 @ 10:27 am

John L, that’s one of my favorite passages in LPP by DB. I, too, feel tremendous kinship with atheists, agnostics and those who “seek to discredit” spirituality. I used to say that every spiritual community needs an atheist to keep it honest.

Comment by Julie — May 10, 2008 @ 10:52 am

Julie: I have come over the past year or so to just accept the mystery and uncertainty and try to avoid absolutisms. Not because there are no absolutes or truth but because I’ll never have any sort of certain grasp of it. And may not be meant to. It does not mean I don’t believe or have a sense of what I must do to live it out. Since I am indeed no expert on scripture, it was kind of a relief to know others that are had some similar thoughts. And JC and EW has supplied me with just that…knowledgable folks who don’t shame me for asking and wrestling around with questions such as the one that started this thread.

I read this two days ago. It was written by Evelyn Underhill: “Perfect clearness in religion often really means just shallowness, for, being what we are, we cannot expect to get eternal life into sharp focus.” And in the next paragraph: “It is also true there are moments in life of communion when the soul DOESN’T wish to see, to fully comprehend….It is not in our comprehension, but in God’s will, that our peace abides.”

I think I am rediscovering the peace she is talking about. Only this time, it feels as though it has dug in so much deeper, like a dandelion root, penetrating further into my soul.

Comment by Nancy — May 10, 2008 @ 11:49 am

The dialogue above challenges me to see the seeker in the atheist, agnostic and non-theist, and to love that person. I am often moved by the generosity of the Jesus Creed blog community.

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