Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Functionally Religious Atheist

Can a person be religious but without God? Yes, I certainly believe that he can. He can have all of the branches of a religious person but devoid of the fruit of the Spirit. Weigh Wesley's words carefully from his Sermons, # 113, "The Difference Between Walking by Sight, and Walking by Faith":

"Brethren, are you of this number, who are now here before God? Do you see 'Him that is invisible?' Have you faith, living faith, the faith of a child? Can you say, 'The life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me'? Do you 'walk by faith?' Observe the question. I do not ask, whether you curse, or swear, or profane the Sabbath, or live in any outward sin. I do not ask, whether you do good, more or less; or attend all the ordinances of God. But, suppose you are blameless in all these respects, I ask, in the name of God, by what standard do you judge of the value of things? by the visible or the invisible world? Bring the matter to an issue in a single instance. Which do you judge best, — that your son should be a pious cobbler, or a profane lord? Which appears to you most eligible, — that your daughter should be a child of God, and walk on foot, or a child of the devil, and ride in a coach-and-six? When the question is concerning marrying your daughter, if you consider her body more than her soul, take knowledge of yourself: You are in the way to hell, and not to heaven; for you walk by sight, and not by faith. I do not ask, whether you live in any outward sin or neglect; but, do you seek in the general tenor of your life, 'the things that are above,' or the things that are below? Do you 'set your affection on things above,' or on 'things of the earth?' If on the latter, you are as surely in the way of destruction, as a thief or a common drunkard. My dear friends, let every man, every woman among you, deal honestly with yourselves. Ask your own heart, 'What am I seeking day by day? What am I desiring? What am I pursuing? earth or heaven? the things that are seen, or the things that are not seen?' What is your object, God or the world? As the Lord liveth, if the world is your object, still all your religion is vain."

I have a sneaking suspicion that this would be unnerving news to many church goers today. Many folks are caught up in "worldliness"--focused on the things below, not the things above.

I further fear many of these people may think, "I go to church. I try to be a nice person. So, I must be all right."

Well, I'm glad they go to church (so long as it's a Bible-obeying one) and I'm glad they try to be a nice person but it's a non sequitor for them to say, "So, I must be all right." That just doesn't follow!

Jesus rebuked some of the religious elite of his day; men who were scrupulous in the matters of Torah, Tanach and scribal oral tradition but spiritually bankrupt in true religion. In Matthew 23, Jesus called them:

"hypocrites" (vs. 13, et al)
"blind guides" (vs. 16, 24)
"blind fools" (vs. 17)
"blind Pharisee" (vs. 26)
"like white-washed sepulchres" (vs. 27)
"serpents" (vs. 33)
"brood of vipers" (vs. 33)

Yes, a person can be very religious--and be very far from God.