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Don’t Be a Functional Atheist at Christmas

Image by Brian W. Tobin via Flickr

Image by Brian W. Tobin via Flickr

All of us raised in Western culture have been strongly conditioned by what is called a secular worldview. The word secular comes from the Latin saeculum, meaning “the present world.” A secular worldview, therefore, is one that focuses on the present physical world and ignores or rejects the spiritual realm. To the extent that one is secularized, spiritual realities like God, angels, demons, and heaven don’t have a significant role in one’s thought or life.

Of course many of us continue to believe in things like God, Jesus, angels, demons, heaven, and hell. But as every study on the topic has shown, our beliefs tend to have little impact on our lives. The majority of Western people hold some sort of spiritual beliefs, but nonetheless continue to live much of their lives as functional atheists.

Let’s be honest. Most of us don’t think about God in most of our waking moments. Still fewer consciously surrender to God in most of our waking moments. Even fewer experience God’s presence in most of our waking moments. Our day-to-day lives are, for all intents and purposes, God-less.

This is the tragic affliction of secularism.

The Gospels tell us that the birth of Jesus is all about the presence of God. His name is “Immanuel” which means God with us. The Incarnation of God introduced the Kingdom of God as Jesus perfectly manifested the reign of God. Jesus did this through unbroken communion with the Father. He never did or said anything except what he saw and heard the Father do. His life was an unbroken act of obedient surrender to the Father’s will. In other words, he lived out the absolute antithesis of a life lived according to the secular worldview. Instead of thinking, living, and experiencing reality on a moment-by-moment basis as though God does not exist, Jesus thought, lived, and experienced the world as though it is continually permeated with God’s presence—because, as a matter of fact, it is.

You are, right now, enveloped by God’s loving presence like a molecule of water in the middle of an infinite ocean. His loving presence presses in on you like the water pressure on a submarine three miles beneath the ocean. Right now, simply become aware of this truth. Let the reality of God’s loving presence be a canvas against which you experience and interpret the world around you.

The most insignificant details of our life take on eternal significance when they are integrated with an awareness of God’s continual presence. In God’s presence, the “secular” world disappears as it is enveloped by, and permeated with, the “holy.”

As I’ve practiced the presence of God, (I write about this in my book Present Perfect) there have been moments when I’ve suddenly become aware of the beautiful mystery of every detail of my surroundings. It’s like the Kingdom breaks through my habitual, false, “secular” view of the world and explodes it from the inside out. In these moments I sense the mind-boggling miracle of existence in everything around me. A leaf twitching in the wind; a bird flying overhead; a ladybug on a blade of grass—it’s all unfathomable miracle. In these moments I am tangibly aware that all things are at every moment held in existence by “[God’s] powerful word” (Heb 1:3). I am struck with childlike wonder. I feel like I’m looking at the world for the first time.

Don’t let the secularized worldview of functional atheism dull your senses. Surrender to his love. Acknowledge his presence around you. Pay attention to the nudges in your heart. God is present.

—Adapted from The Myth of a Christian Religion, pages 163-170.

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