I think the Christian Church needs to get back to atheism. Yes, BACK to atheism. Because it’s in our heritage and we’ve lost something along the way.
Early on, Christianity grew up in a heavily cultic atmosphere where the very fabric of society was woven together in pagan ritual and emperor worship. Christianity was at first a sub-sect of the Jewish religion, tolerated as a minuscule minority unworthy of imperial attention. But things soon changed as the Gospel began to make inroads into the Gentile world and the Roman empire watched it’s own citizens adopt this new “intolerant” faith which led to them to disavow the many cultic practices common in the culture.
When former pagans stopped worshipping the pantheon of Roman gods in favor of isolated devotion to Christ, do you know what they called them?
In 155 AD, Roman Authorities brought an 80 year-old Church father named Polycarp (who many believe was a disciple of John the Apostle) to the Roman Coliseum to renounce Christ or be executed. Right after his steadfast confession of Christ the uproarious crowd shouted at him, “Away with the Atheist.”
Another Church father name Justin held that title as a badge of honor before Caesar, saying, “Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity.” (Apology i.5-6).
The Fathers of the Christianity that transformed the Roman Empire were profoundly committed to rejecting all gods outside the One True God and His Son Jesus Christ.
I say we get back to that.
Every culture worships something. Ours worships almost anything. The “gods” of success, sports, fame, celebrity, money and sex are prevalent and pervasive. Think about it, we call celebrities “stars” as if they actually were part of the awesome constellation we see above us at night. We look to politics every four years as the answer to our problems. No sooner does the current president prove himself human and mistake-prone than we look to the next rising statesman to save us through a differnt form of “Hope and Change”. We trust money more than we trust the One who enables us to make it (Deuteronomy 8:18). We put our faith in knowledge at the University, our bodies at the gym, our success at the office, and our families around the kitchen table. Not that these are bad, but they all fail miserably as gods.
I say, we must be Atheists again! Let us resolutely reject putting our hope, trust and worship in anything other than the Christ who died for us. Let us live so differently… so that what Peter said can come true in our generation: 1 Peter 2:12 “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”