Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Church of Atheism?

If you have a few moments today, read this article recently published in New York Magazine. It really got me thinking about the idea of church vs. Church. And I realized I really don't have a clear understanding of this whole concept. But I want to.

So what, exactly, is the Church? Or church? I'd love input from any of you more philosphically, theologically minded types because I'm a bit confused.

Here is a quote from the article ...

"The most successful movements in history, after all—Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc.—all have creeds, cathedrals, schools, hierarchies, rituals, money, clerics, and some version of a heavenly afterlife. Churches fill needs, goes the argument—they inculcate ethics, give meaning, build communities."

and another ...
"They aim to remove God from the church, while leaving the church, at least large parts of it, standing."

What is your reaction?
What, as Christ-followers, should our response be?
Or should we respond at all?

6 comments:

nate said...

"Churches fill needs, goes the argument—they inculcate ethics, give meaning, build communities."

Man, that statement bums me out, as if infers that the institution of church is "man ordained."

I have been "searching" for the meaning of "church" for the past several years, and it has led me closer and closer to orthodoxy. I believe that the church is Christ's presence on earth, built on Peter, who led the Jerusalem council with James. So from an insiders perspective, comparing the atheist church with the Christian church is like comparing apples and oranges.

I think they have every right to convene, and would encourage them to, but see it more as a social gathering/a building, not a divine representation (which is fallible).

I would hope that those in question are not gathering in a historically Christian building to make a mockery of my faith though!

Skip Crust said...

hmmmmm....

Gotta chew on it.

I'll be back.

Skip Crust said...

Probably the easiest way to define "Church" vs "church" doesn't have much to do with this article...so my personal understanding of the two things first, then my comments.

"Church" is traditionally defined as the larger Christian organization, including almost all denominational groups and theological bends. In context..."The Church really has some cultural problems on it's hands".

Meanwhile "church" typically refers the localized gathering of worshipers. You'd probably say something like "At my church we sing hymns".

What I find interesting is this idea that they want to do "good without God". It's impossible. Only God is good (Luke 18:19), so any good you do is from God. When "good" is done, God is glorified. As much as Aethists try, they can't get away from God.

We certainly can't include Aethists in "Church" since they don't even have a theology (belief in a God). They can call themselves a church, but they're not part of the Church. It doesn't sound like they want to be either!

"He can see the tactical virtues of making temporary alliances with religion—to "hold hands with religious people" when it comes to making the case for important causes like teaching evolution in the classroom. But there are definite limits. "In the larger war against supernaturalism, frankly, it doesn't help to fraternize with the enemy," he says."

Unfortunately, Aethists will always see God-fearing people (specifically Christians) as the enemy. The only thing we can do is be "good" to them. By being good, we bring God in the most basic way. It's "stealth witnessing".

GREAT POST Becky.

Becky said...

Great thoughts, Skip. I especially like the whole part about there being no good apart from God.

Julisa said...

Great thoughts, Skip Crust...but I think I have to disagree with you on one point...that they don't want to be a part of "Church". My first thought in reading this article was that, as much as they reject God, they still have the desire for the fellowship and the community that He created us for that is afforded by the Church. Of course they don't see it that way, but deep down we all have that NEED. So they don't want it but they do. I think if they didn't feel that, then the political organizations and causes that they so often get behind would be enough and they wouldn't be 'playing at' church like this.

Carolyn said...

Julisa, excellent points about community. I once knew a family that said that God told them to leave our church so that they could "do church" at home...all by themselves. (They had a large family). How is that biblical? It's part of who we are as Christians to need community and relationship with other. Good stuff.