In a book, written in 2010, that is rich in personal stories and supposedly (according to the front inside cover) a “classic in the making”, Pastor Craig Groeschel writes about what it means to be a Christian Atheist.
DEFINITION OF CHRISTIAN ATHEISM
Before reviewing this book, it is important to see how Groeschel defines “Christian Atheism.” Christian Atheism, according to Groeschel, is “where people believe in God but live as if he doesn’t exist” (p. 14). Notice that the “he” (which refers to God in that sentence) is not capitalized. I am not sure if that is supposed to mean anything, but in some translations (NASB, NKJV, etc.), names or titles for Jesus are capitalized (which is how it should be, but that is simply my opinion). Throughout this book, Groeschel does not capitalize names/titles for Jesus. At first, I thought this was a bad thing. However, it does not appear to be as bad as I once thought.
Groeschel writes this book “for anyone courageous enough to admit to their hypocrisy” (p. 15). Groeschel admits he sees this kind of atheism in himself (p. 14). In fact, he writes himself that he is indeed a Christian atheist albeit not as bad as he was when he was younger (p. 17). Each chapter in this book starts with “When you believe in God but…” followed by an action or attitude (i.e., not forgiving, not thinking God is fair, etc.). Is this book really a “classic in the making” as the inside cover states? This book review attempts to answer that question.
Each chapter in this book features heavy doses of Groeschel’s own personal stories. He does a fair job of connecting them to the chapter’s subject matter. While I do not have a problem with his doing this in an effort to illustrate his points, I am not sure that a book with heavy doses of personal stories can really be a “classic in the making.” After all, if I wrote a book that had heavy doses of my own personal stories, I would hardly call it a “classic in the making.” Instead, I’d call it a book that one may find helpful, interesting, insightful, etc. (depending on what the subject matter is).
After the introduction, Groeschel writes about how Christian Atheists believe in God but do not really know Him (pp. 29-43). He then writes about how Christian Atheists believe in God but are ashamed of their past and unsure if He really loves them (pp. 45-71). While he does cite a good chunk of Scripture when making a few points, he does not do this thing when discussing various passages in the Bible (pp. 51-52). He also cites the New Living Translation version of the Bible, with said translation having a few problems (p. 63). Finally, when discussing Luke 15 (he actually gives no specific verse citations in this discussion), he says that you (the reader) are the younger brother spoken of in Luke 15:11-32 (pp. 70-71). While there may be some people who fit all or parts of the description of the younger brother spoken of in the aforementioned passage, to say that the reader is indeed any character in the Bible is simply narcigetical and inappropriate. Unfortunately, false teachers like Beth Moore (pardon the lack of video quality here), John Gray (check the 20:34 mark of this podcast here; check the 37:34 mark for this refutation of Gray here) and Brian Houston (check the 37:34 mark of this “satanic in the highest degree” sermon here) have done this very thing in making the Bible about you, the reader. Groeschel’s following suit here is a seriously bad thing.
In chapter four, Groeschel discusses how Christian Atheists believe in God but not in prayer (pp. 73-90). He makes an interesting statement when he says (without citing a biblical text) that God is moved by our prayers (p. 79). Is he suggesting that our prayers can move the all-powerful, all-sovereign God? Is he suggesting God is waiting on our prayers so He can move? I thought He was God. I thought He could move regardless of what we pray, how we pray, if we pray, etc.. After all, He did send His Son to die for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). Groeschel proceeds onward in this chapter by giving a manmade definition of prayer (rather than a biblical one), making statements without giving biblical support, and promoting the “still small voice” false teaching (pp. 80-85).
In chapter five, Groeschel discusses how Christian Atheists believe in God but do not think he is fair (pp. 91-109). He makes a very questionable statement (amongst a few others in this chapter) when he, speaking of Jesus Christ, says, “Bad things happened to him so that good things could happen to us” (p. 105). While salvation from hell is certainly a good thing, why doesn’t Groeschel give biblical support when it was most certainly warranted here? He could have stated how Jesus Christ came to save people from their sins (Matthew 18:11; Isaiah 53:6; 1 Timothy 1:15). He missed an opportunity there, thus making his point there weak. Thankfully, he did not miss much in chapter six, a chapter about how Christian Atheists believe in God but won’t forgive (pp. 111-122).
To kick off the second half of the “chapter” part of this book, Groeschel writes about how Christian Atheists believe in God but do not think they can change (pp. 123-141). If Groeschel was not in the danger zone by now, he most certainly crosses that line when he speaks of tapping “into God’s life-changing power” (p. 135). The phrase itself oozes of Word of Faith/New Apostolic Reformation verbiage, which is bad. Another bad thing is his ripping Jeremiah 29:11 (one of the most abused verses in Scripture, if not the most abused) out of context at the end of chapter eight, a chapter about how Christian Atheists believe in God but still worry all the time (pp. 143-159).
Groeschel addresses the issues of happiness (calling it a false god, which is true), money and not sharing your faith in the next three chapters (pp. 161-213). Like the earlier parts of the book, Groeschel does not often back some of his statements with Scripture. Furthermore, he makes allusions to the sinner’s prayer, which no less than one site calls unbiblical. He concludes his “chapter” part of the book with a chapter about how Christian Atheists believe in God but do not believe in his church (pp. 217-232). He then concludes his book with a section on Third Line Faith, which is a manmade doctrine (pp. 233-240).
SOMETHING TO NOTE
This book had either citations of and/or praises from many a false teacher. These false teachers include Andy Stanley, Brian Houston, Francis Chan, Jentezen Franklin (check the 1:09:55 mark of the Franklin hyperlink), Bill Hybels and Max Lucado. I did not mention those in my review because this book was written in 2010. It is possible one or more of these teachers were not as bad back then as they are this day (especially in the case of Chan with his ever-growing allegiance with the N.A.R). For that reason, I did not list those in my review. As a result, they do not affect my decision on whether this book is a “classic in the making.”
Speaking of decision, I stated this book review would determine whether or not this book is a “classic in the making.” This book is certainly not that. Instead, it is a book that makes a few good points while making too many others that are either bad, weak, dangerous or a combination of the three. For that reason, unless you have to read this book for research purposes, I would not call this a “must-read.” Instead, I would call it a book that, good points aside, is not really worth the time. More relevantly, it is not a “classic in the making.”