I respect my friends who don’t believe in God. Many are being true to their experience of the world. Sometimes theists abuse atheists for their unbelief. That makes me sad because I think some atheists are just being honest. Even John says “No one has ever seen God…” (John 1:18). So why should Jesus followers belittle neighbors who say “How can I love a God I have yet to see?”?
I’m a Theistic Jesus follower with all my mind. But let’s be honest. How did you and I begin to understand God? Often, we began to believe through a long series of small steps. Even those closest to Jesus went through a process. Remember that after His followers spent three years with Jesus and after his coming back to life – still they did not fully believe (Luke 24:4-35). They were mystified. It was only after they were confronted with the evidence that they believed. Only then did these previously perplexed women tell the students of Jesus that He’s alive. Atheists think theists speak nonsense, right? Sure they do. But even the teaching fellows of Jesus said the women spoke “nonsense” when they insisted that Jesus is alive. Hence, I have respect for atheists. Only after they reheard the texts and after Jesus revealed Himself again did some (not all) worship Jesus as God’s Messiah. If it was a process for them – it may be an arduous spiritual journey for atheists as well. Give ‘em some air.
When we see nature and the universe we see beauty, genius and irreducibly complex order. Atheists accuse us of being ignorant, forgetting we’re pro-science too. But there’s a difference. Our souls have been changed by the entrance of God’s Spirit. Thus, we view the galaxies through a different lens. When confronted by secularism we sometimes forget that “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Cor 2:14) Atheism naturally views you as misguided when you speak of the spirit world, almighty God and His kingdom. Like me, atheists need mercifully illuminating grace to turn from self, turn toward God and begin following Jesus.
So, let’s cut our atheist family members some slack. Let’s not seek to coerce or convince them against their will. I admit my naiveté in sometimes seeking to cajole them into belief. I want to love them as neighbors, communicate honestly and ask God to open their hearts to His love. Thankfully for us all – atheists and theists alike – Jesus is a gentleman and God is patient.