4 Top Reasons That People Reject Christianity

Obviously there are many people who are not Christians. These non-Christians can be divided into two groups: those who have not considered Christianity and those who have rejected Christianity. Here I am going to deal with the rejecters. I am not suggesting these four reasons explain everyone’s decision, but they are the top four. They are not in any particular order.

1. Intellectual doubts. Some people have looked at the evidence for Christianity and have found it wanting. They may have doubts about God’s role in creation, in the historical reliability of the Bible, the possibility of miracles and so on. I would suggest that there are responses to these doubts but I must acknowledge that these play a role for some rejecters.

2. Bad church experiences. Most of us have had some bad church experiences, at least to some degree. Whether it is a power hungry pastor, Christians who cheat on their spouses or just hypocrisy in general, people are affected by it. It was a crisis of faith for me when I first realized that not every Christian is really a follower of Jesus. I believe that Christianity should be judged by the evidence rather than by the actions of Christians. But I still understand how people can be discouraged by it.

3. General suffering. By this I mean things like natural disasters, diseases, wars, crimes and so on. If God is good, why does he allow such things? I actually find that some so-called atheists are actually open to God’s existence but the suffering in the world makes them not want to believe in God.

4. Personal suffering. This is suffering that hits close to home. These are things like serious illnesses to the person or a loved one. It could be a broken relationship, abuse, financial difficulties and many other things. People assume that if there is a God, he would protect us from all these things. Obviously he does not.

I am not giving responses to each of these in this post. I provide this list only because we need to understand the reasons before we address them.

When the Problem of Suffering is Not Theoretical

One of the important areas of apologetics is that of the problem of suffering. I separate that from the problem of evil. I consider the problem of evil to be things like crime, war and injustice. The problem of suffering I see as more of what a person goes through personally, whether by sickness, disability or some other change of life quality. Suffering is likely connected in some way with evil, but I am thinking of more the things life throws at us that beat us down.

I’m glad that people write on this issue and there are some great books on this. But it is one thing to reflect on this on a theoretical level and it is another thing to go through the suffering yourself.

I have just returned home from almost a week in the hospital. During part of that time, it looked fairly likely that I might be dying. While I have sinse had some good test results and things are looking better, I am still not out of the woods. However, even in the grimmest time, I really did not wrestle with the problem of suffering. I asked “Why?” but I was not really seeking an answer. Even if God spoke to me in my hospital room, I’m not sure there would be any answer that would make me feel better. I was scared, not so much of dying, but of missing the experience of watching my children grow up. If an apologist came to me and tried to explain why this was happening, I would not have been open to their explanations. I was in a place of desperation where I was calling out to God. It was far more emotional than intellectual. I am thankful that the pastors that reached out to me did not try to explain the situation. They listened to my frustration and prayed for me. That is really all we can do.

What do we do with the problem of suffering? Continue to write on it, but write for the skeptics who struggling to see Christianity as having a place for suffering. But when it comes to people who are suffering, avoid the example of Job’s companions and just show compassion. The truth is you do not know why a person is a suffering or how God will respond.

 

God and the Boston Tragedy

Any Christian response to the terrible bomb attack at the Boston marathon must begin with compassion and not pious platitudes.  We must pray for those who are  injured and those who have lost loved ones.  We must go beyond prayer and help out in whatever way we can.  If you are in the area, donate blood or watch for other material assistance that is needed.  We should hug our own families and realize that tragedy can happen at the most unexpected of times.

However, someone is bound to ask: “Why would God allow this to happen?”  That is natural to ask, especially for the people directly affected.  Beyond that, there will be skeptics who will push this and suggest that if a good God existed, he would not have allowed such suffering.  For many people that will sound convincing.  But think through what that means.  I assume people are suggesting that a good God would have struck dead those responsible before the bombs were ever planted.  Let us work through this.

I assume we all want good government.  Imagine if the government came up with a plan that they were going to insert a microchip into every citizen’s brain.  The purpose of the microchip would be to sense when we are about to commit a crime and then release lethal shock to kill us before we could carry out the crime.  Would you be the first one in line to get your microchip?  Would you rejoice that the government was regularly killing people in order to prevent crimes?  Would you see this as the best example of good government?  Likely not.

So why do we think that a good God is required to kill people before they commit crimes?  Where is God in the Boston tragedy?  He is there.  He is working through people, Christian and non-Christian.  He is bringing peace and hope and healing to a place of chaos and suffering.

Our prayers go out to the people of Boston, the runners of the marathon and the families affected by this terrible attack.  Our prayers go as well to the people responsible and our hope is that they would come to a place of repentance for their horrific deed.

Why Did God Let This Happen?

As a parent of elementary school aged children, the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut has really touched a nerve.  This is every parents’ worst nightmare.  You assume that when you send your children to school that they are safe.  No one expects that an armed individual would end the life of so many children and teachers.  Our prayers must be with the families of the victims and the family of the one responsible.  This is truly a heartbreaking situation.

One of the first questions that is asked is: Why did this happen?  That is a natural and normal question.  We should be asking about the reasons behind this tragedy.  Why did this young man kill his own mother and so many innocent children?

For many people, the why question goes beyond the reasons for the individual and into questions about God’s involvement or lack thereof.  Why would God allow this to happen?  For some this is the normal question of people who are hurting and for others this is the ‘proof’ they have been looking for that there is no God or at least no good God.

I would say for those who are hurting, this is a natural question to ask.  But at the same time, we should think through what we would expect God to do.  Assume for a moment that there is a God and that he should have done something.  What should have God done?  Should God have taken control of Adam Lanza’s mind and forced him not to act in such a way?  If so, is that something that God should have done just in this case or on a daily basis?  Do we want to live in a world where God controls our minds and forces us to act in a certain way?  Do we want a world where we don’t have the choice to love our children or the choice to help a person in need?  So if we don’t want God to control our minds and actions, what would we want?  God could have sent down a lightning bolt and killed Adam Lanza before he committed one murder.  But is that really what we want as well?  Do we want a world where God is sending bolts from heaven, killing those who are making evil decisions?  And where would the cut off be?  What level of crime would deserve a divine execution?  When we try and be specific, we find the natural questions of why God let this happen are difficult to answer.

I would suggest that instead of dwelling on why God let this happen, that we should be looking at how God is working right now.  I do not want people to think that I am suggesting that God is powerless to intervene.  However, most often God’s actions are responses to our freewill and not an override of that will.  Where is God working in this situation?  What good will come from this?  I don’t have the answers to these questions as only time will tell.  But I am confident that God is present in this situation.

Love and Power

I recently had a conversation with someone about what it means for God to be all-powerful and all-loving.  Since I don’t want this to be just buried in the comments section, I thought I would bring up the main points here.  First of all, I have to say that there is a difference when it is a conversation between philosophers on a theoretical level and when it is someone who has personally experienced suffering.  Our instinct is that if God is both loving and powerful, he should intervene in some way.  I am sympathetic with these feelings.  There are times I think about how effortlessly God could heal my two autistic children.  I cannot put everything into a tight little box that would totally remove the concerns of people who struggle with this.  But I can offer some thoughts.

1) With regard to moral evil, we have to ask who is responsible: God or humanity?  Why did God allow the holocaust?  Why not ask why humanity allowed the holocaust?  If we followed God’s commands, we would have a heaven on earth.

2) If God took away free will for doing evil, he would have to take away the free will to do good.  If we are not free to hate, we are not free to love.

3) It is in the worst tragedies that we see humanity at its most noble.  Look at history.  Has society been the best when it is the most affluent and comfortable or when they band together to help those in need.

4) To define all-loving as giving us everything we want is an artificial definition.  I love my children.  But I sometimes seem very unfair, unjust and mean when I don’t give them what they want.  Loving does not require constant intervention.

5) Why does God not intervene?  How do we know he doesn’t?  We have no idea how much God intervenes in this world or in our lives.

6) This life is not all there is.  When a baby is born extremely sick and dies days later, it is heart breaking.  We think of all the things that child should have been able to experience.  But if there is a resurrection and there is an opportunity for the child to experience an eternity of activity, it should affect our understanding.  This does not take away from the need to grieve.  Jesus cried at Lazarus’ tomb even though he was about raise him from the dead.

7) We must see God’s power and love in the context of the cross.  Why doesn’t God do something about evil and death?  He did by sending Jesus to die on the cross for us.  Jesus was God’s power and love compressed into the form of a human being.

If you are going through a terrible time or know someone who is, seven points are not going to make your pain disappear.  But hopefully these things will help you to see that there is a bigger picture and will encourage you to not shut the door on God too quickly.