Atheists and Christians Talk Theology

[Updated from the archives.]

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A couple years ago I co-taught a Sunday school class on some basic theology: Christology and Pneumatology, the Incarnation and the Trinity, stuff like that. I started the very first session by pointing out that – whether we realize it or not – we make theological pronouncements all the time.

“I believe in God”

“Prayer is powerful”

“Jesus is my savior”

Each of statement is packed with theology, and you can probably come up with a number of Bible verses that speak to each of these. But what about more mundane statements?

“I love my family”

“It’s great to have a job you like”

“Pepperoni pizza is awesome!”

How are these theological? God’s common blessings are for everyone; that’s why they’re called common. Here’s where we see these blessings in the Bible:

Family is ordained by God – “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number’.” (Genesis 1:28.)

Work is ordained by God – “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15.)

Enjoying food is ordained by God – “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.'” (Genesis 2:16.)

I’m especially tickled by that last one. Adam and Eve were free to try out different foods and eat the ones they liked. That meant that they could also avoid those that didn’t suit their taste buds.

And as you can see, atheists then end up talking theology too. Every time they say they don’t believe in God they are making a theological statement, even if it reflects bad doctrine. And every time they say they enjoy something that is one of God’s blessings, they glorify the Creator even though they deny his existence.

Every statement is a theological statement whether we know it or not.

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Keeping in mind that every statement is a theological statement, what theology have you been talking about lately even if you didn’t realize it a the time?

What Bible passages help you understand the theology behind your statement?

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6 Responses to Atheists and Christians Talk Theology

  1. Pastor Bob says:

    The atheist removes a supreme being from his/her lifestyle. The agnostic has not eliminated the supreme being, but passively acknowledges a supreme being.
    Both replace the supreme being as God with self as god.

  2. Aimee Byrd says:

    This is a great way to get people thinking about theology, Tim. I’ve been thinking a lot about providence lately as I talk about my hopes and plans. I never want to sound presumptuous in my plans, and waiting on God is difficult. Also, when I think of how I am “interrupted” from my intentions/plans/accomplishments, I am reminded of God’s providence and become thankful for his interruptions.
    What always kills me is how atheist want to define themselves by a theological label.

    • Tim says:

      Waiting on God when our plans are put on hold is one of those tensions that I sometimes don’t deal so well with myself, Aimee. I know that all things work to the good of those who love God, yet what that good is and when it will come can be hard to see!

      And I never recognized the irony in it, but you’re so right about the word “atheist”. In the end, one can’t help but be defined by theological labels, can they?

  3. Jeremy M. says:

    Personally my thoughts lately have been around the faithfulness of God even when the events of life don’t make God’s faithfulness very obvious. This has been brought on both by studying/blogging through Abraham’s story in Genesis and also the rather sudden deterioration of my grandmother’s health in the past week. That’s an aspect of theology that has been very much on my mind and heart the last little bit.

    This post reminds me of a thought I have consistently had, that we are ultimately all religious. Our beliefs may vary from not believing in any gods to believing in a full pantheon of gods, but no matter which we believe we are still religious and talk theology much more than most care to admit.

    • Tim says:

      You’ve really captured the issue, Jeremy – we are all religious even when not claiming any faith at all.

      I’m praying for your grandmother, friend.

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