Review: The Christian Atheist
by Craig Groeschel
I'll confess. I judged the book because of its cover - or title, to be exact. I've used the expression Christian Atheist before, and after reviewing the table of contents in the store, I snatched it up for our worship leader and I to read together.
Craig Groeschel is pastor of LifeChurch.tv, which has put the "multisite church" on the map. They export church in the way some countries do bananas. They have vibrant ministries that are impacting thousands, and Craig is a regularly featured speaker at youngish Christian leader gatherings.
Craig's definition of Christian atheism is when "people believe in God but live as if He doesn't exist." The rest of the book could simply be summarized by his chapter titles. Read them and you've got the gist of the book:
A Recovering Christian Atheist
When You Believe in God but Don't Really Know Him
When You Believe in God but Are Ashamed of Your Past
When You Believe in God but Aren't Sure He Loves You
When You Believe in God but Not in Prayer
When You Believe in God but Don't Think He's Fair
When You Believe in God but Won't Forgive
(get the point?)
...but Don't Think You Can Change
but Still Worry All the Time
but Pursue Happiness at Any Cost
but Trust More in Money
but Don't Share Your Faith
but Not in His Church
(and then a break from the formula"¦)
Third Line Faith
The book's message is essential. I just don't know if Groeschel was up to the task. Some of the subjects he tackles in a single chapter are massive, daunting life questions that have challenged us for centuries.
Even with that being said, however, he has a winsome writing style, full of powerful, personal stories that woos you into the material in each chapter.
It's definitely a great book for college students or those seeking to examine why they are struggling with intimacy with the Lord. It's not a book that will convince a real atheist, obviously. It's written to the Christian atheist.
The best chapter in the book is "but Pursue Happiness at Any Cost." He does an excellent job of unpacking how God doesn't intend happiness for us.
If we believe that God wants us happy above all else, rather than acknowledging that our role is to serve God, we wrongly believe that God exists to serve us.
As in every chapter, however, Groeschel has a nasty habit (and this is my preference) of obscuring plain-spoken truth with personal anecdote. A sentence after making a profound observation, he will digress to a story that may be a real tear-jerker but doesn't necessarily contribute to helping the reader deal with the truth. In fact, it may let us off the hook. You're left thinking, "What an amazing story!" rather than "I've got to respond to this truth."
I'd recommend it, but the title is the message. Deal with the power of the message and discover the joy of living with complete, reckless faith in a living God.