A House (of Athiests) Divided
As I’m sure you’ve seen in the headlines in the last couple of years, churches for atheists are gaining quite a following. Sure, they maintain their staunch belief that God doesn’t exist, but they see the value in the community aspect of the churches around them, and they want a part in that. They describe themselves as “a secular urban oasis, where atheists could enjoy the benefits of traditional church – the sense of community, the weekly sermon, the scheduled time for reflection, the community service opportunities, the ethos of self-improvement, the singing and the free food – without God.” In a twist that seems inevitable and contains more than a little irony, though, turmoil is starting to develop among their churches. Splits are beginning to occur, and there is division among the leadership about which direction the atheist church “Assembly” movement should take going forward from here.
On the surface, their division is mainly focused on how atheistic they should be. Some believe that atheism should be their main emphasis, while others maintain that the movement should focus on all anti-religious people (agnostics, humanists, skeptics, etc.). They’ve missed a crucial point though, and it’s one we can be guilty of missing as well. The sense of love, caring, and community that they set out to achieve doesn’t exist without the love of Jesus Christ. If we don’t have the same attitude in ourselves that He possessed as He gave up heaven, came to earth, and went to His death on the cross (Philippians 2), our own opinions, selfish desires, and stubborn wills can only end in division. The churches the atheists model themselves after don’t work simply because a bunch of people come together with common goals, interests, lifestyles, and beliefs. Rather, they work because they have one key factor in common – the love of Christ that is shared in common because of the promise of His blood. When that key element is removed as in an atheist church or when we stop reminding ourselves of it in the church (as the Philippian church had), unity can’t be found.
The very foundation of the church and every good thing that it does is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. From those we derive our distinguishing marks – the love that we hold in common (John 13:35) and the doctrine that sets the guidelines for how we live, act, and worship (John 14:15). Atheist churches have no hope because they are missing these key elements. These principles don’t just affect atheist churches, though. Splits, division, and sharp disagreement occur in the church as well. Ephesians 4:1-3 reminds us that we must be diligent to preserve our peace and unity that come from the Spirit. As the church can become fractured into small cliques and sects when we look out for ourselves first or don’t show the love of Christ in all things, we have to be all the more diligent in this day and age to prove ourselves united in Him.
The only way for humans to ever become truly unified in one mind and purpose is through the love of Jesus Christ. Is that love alive, working, and evident in your congregation? Your life? My life? I hope we’ll all take some time to think on these things.