Perhaps the most uncomfortable thing about Christianity is not that God exists, and not that God sent his Son to the earth. It’s not the miracles: did God really make the universe out of nothing? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? It’s not even that its ethical stance on sexuality feels behind the times.
The most uncomfortable thing about Christianity is unequivocally our call to not just believe in, but to grant God authority in our lives and live faithfully and righteously.
In 2 Peter 2, Peter admonishes the church to beware of those who are false teachers and prophets. He says, “And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.” It’s interesting that he uses the word sensuality here. He doesn’t say, “And many will follow their false beliefs,” he says, “And many will follow their sensuality.”[i]
The result, not the cause, of our sensual desires is believing in false teaching.
The hook of false beliefs is rarely the beliefs themselves. Atheism, frankly, isn’t a very attractive belief system on its own merits. By its very definition, life contains no meaning: the brutal and blind hand of the natural world is all that is. It raises more questions than it solve: from the question of creation to the problem of evil to ethics. The hook of atheism is sensuality. If there is no God, there is no one you have to cede authority of your life to.
It’s why agnosticism is much more popular than atheism[ii] You get the same freedom and don’t have to swallow nearly as bitter a pill.
Pastor Tim Keller once shared his experience with reuniting with young men who returned to his church after a semester or year in college. “Pastor,” the student would say, “I’m having doubts about my faith. I just don't know if I can believe in the God of the Bible anymore after what I’ve been studying.” Keller would put his arm around the young man’s shoulder and ask, “When did you start sleeping with your girlfriend?”
It’s not that there aren’t serious objections to Christianity or that we shouldn’t respond thoughtfully and lovingly to those who question Christianity; it’s just that the teeth of these objections are rarely the objections themselves: it is rather the opportunity to live in a manner we want to.
“Plausible deniability” is the phrase that is used for an official in an organization who creates the ability to deny that he or she knew of illegal activity in the company. For many, the spur of atheism or the lure of Eastern spirituality isn’t that the arguments or beliefs are more compelling than Christianity, it’s that they afford the opportunity to live the way we want.
The hooks of sensuality are everywhere. Where are they luring you? Your heart might not be tugged to blatantly reject Christianity, but each one of us is wrestling with the lures of this world to selfishly satisfy our sensuality in consumerism, sex, money, comfort. And each one of those lures comes with it the slippage and even denial of God’s authority and truth in our lives.
While the percentage of Americans who outright reject God in their lives is relatively small, those who functionally reject God is pervasive. Our enemy doesn’t need you to become an atheist to claim victory. He just needs you to choose the lure over the Author.
Beware the lure of sensuality, friend.
Photo credit: Carl Heyerdahl/Unsplash
[i] 2 Peter 2:2
[ii] Recent studies report around 3% of the US population are atheists and 4-5% are agnostics. I’m actually dubious of these numbers as many who self-report as atheists are probably identified as agnostic https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreligion_in_the_United_States.