One of the objections I hear in my interactions with atheists on college campuses is that Christians give them no viable alternatives.
Either you believe in Jesus or you’re sent to hell. Not much of a choice there.
I respond by saying that all persons are invited to join the family of God. If they refuse the invitation, they live outside the family of God — forever.
This “forever” place is called hell. Minimally, it’s where God is not, the one place his presence is missing.
So yes, people are free to say to God, “Sorry, I don’t want you.”
And God takes that choice seriously: he let’s them have their way.
If they reject him in the present life, they certainly don’t want him in the next. (An atheist once said to me, “What makes you think I want to spend eternity with Christians? I don’t even like them now.”)
Part of loving our atheist neighbor, then, is giving them the freedom to opt out of the faith. But of course “opting out” here is not just about the intellect, but relationship. They’re refusing divine love.
What God doesn’t do
God provides plenty of evidence of his existence and love. There is nature, conscience, the Bible, the person of Christ, the church. There is philosophy, science, literature . . .
Clues and signs for God can be found in abundance. All imply an invitation to believe and love.
But the one thing God doesn’t do is provide absolute proof-positive of himself. There is always a way out. Christian faith is always dismissible.
Even among those who interacted with Jesus personally in the first century there were unbelievers. They saw him yet dismissed him.
Is dismissibility a sign of weakness in Christianity? I have responded to that question in an extensive post over at the Emerging Scholars Blog.
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