Thanks to Heather’s Poor Excuse for bringing our attention to this wonderful article by a Christian Orthodox priest. The hubby and I were members of a Greek Orthodox Church when we lived in Colorado and I’ve never since felt as close to God as I did then. The Orthodox worship that we participated in weekly and sometimes twice weekly is how I envision worship in Heaven, if you were to take it literally. There was such a sense of humility and awe in the liturgy, coming face to face with the Holy through the sacraments and with our fellow worshipers! It was something I’ve never seen in fundamentalist churches before or since. I’ve often wondered whether fundies were worshiping the same God. Now I’m pretty sure they aren’t. This priest explains why such fundamentalist inerrantists are basically no different than an atheist. The whole article explains what he means by Christian atheism, but it’s this portion that caught my eye:
I have here introduced the notion of “practical atheism,” meaning by it, that although a person may espouse a belief in God, it is quite possible for that belief to be so removed from everyday life, that God’s non-existence would make little difference.
Surprisingly, I would place some forms of Christian fundamentalism within this category (as I have defined it). I recall a group affiliated with some particular Church of Christ, who regularly evangelized our apartment complex when I lived in Columbia, S.C. They were also a constant presence on the campus of the local university. They were absolute inerrantists on the subject of the Holy Scriptures. They were equally adamant that all miracles had ceased with the completion of the canon of the New Testament. Christians today only relate to God through the Bible.
Such a group can be called “Biblicists,” or something, but, in the terminology I am using here, I would describe them as “practical atheists.” Though they had great, even absolutist, faith in the Holy Scriptures, they had no relationship with a God who is living and active and directly involved in their world. Had their notion of a God died, and left somebody else in charge of His heaven, it would not have made much difference so long as the rules did not change.
I realize that this is strong criticism, but it is important for us to understand what is at stake. The more the secular world is exalted as secular, that is, having an existence somehow independent of God, the more we will live as practical atheists – perhaps practical atheists who pray (but for what do we pray?). I would also suggest that the more secular the world becomes for Christians, the more political Christians will become. We will necessarily resort to the same tools and weapons as those who do not believe.
Christianity that has purged the Church of the sacraments, and of the sacramental, have only ideas which can be substituted – the result being the eradication of God from the world in all ways other than theoretical. Of course, since much of modern Christianity functions on this ideological level rather than the level of the God-Who-is among-us, much of Christianity functions in a mode of practical atheism. The more ideological the faith, the more likely its proponents are to espouse what amounts to a practical atheism (bold emphasis mine).
Excellent point here. There is a time, like now, when inerrantist Christians so strip God of all practical power and work in the world, when God is codified and frozen in place, without sacrament or movement in a world of their own making, that they render themselves as atheists, in a sense, someone who does not truly believe that God acts in or through the world today. They believe in a frozen God, frozen in words on a page. And as such, he writes, these Christians have “exiled God from the world around us.” They believe that without their efforts at transforming politics themselves, God is unable to act, that it’s up to them to forcibly enact a Kingdom on earth now. Scary!
The rest of his article is worth deep contemplation and, dare I say it, repentance from presuming to define the Divine through a pinprick of a lens. If you want to see how this sort of Christian atheism plays out in the real world, just jog on over to Talk to Action site and read the latest disturbing reviews of the 16th book in the Left Behind series. This series of books outlines exactly what fundie Christians will “do” in the face of apocalyptic crises. Do you think I’m kidding? This series is merely fundie dogma fictionalized by only changing names of the players. This is Pastor Hagee’s blueprint for the future!