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Are you a professing Christian but a practicing atheist?

Discussion in 'Christian Chat' started by mattfivefour, Apr 10, 2012.

  1. mattfivefour

    mattfivefour Well-Known Member

    I came across this in Pastor Charles Price's "Daily Journey" devotional today. Dr. Price is well-known in Canada (and throughout much of the world) as a passionate and learned Christian teacher who pastors the largest church in Toronto, Ontario —a city the same size as Los Angeles. I have followed him for years and can attest that his doctrine is excellent!

    "In the Gospels we read that Jesus feeds 5,000 hungry people with just five loaves and two small fish. At one point Jesus tests Philip by asking him to feed the people. Philip looks in his pocket for any loose change, checks with Judas the treasurer, and concludes 'We can't do it, we don't have enough money.'

    "Now suppose Jesus then called an atheist up from the same crowd and gave him the same challenge. What do you think the atheist would do? He would look in his pocket for any loose change, check with Judas the treasurer, and conclude 'We can't do it, we don't have enough money.'

    "So what does this tell us about Philip? Simply that he was a professing believer but a practicing atheist.

    "The missing ingredient of Philip's assessment of the situation was the same as the atheist's— God. Philip believed in God but He had reduced God to a silent partner in their relationship. If our Christian lives and Christian activities can be explained in purely human terms, then how different are we to our unbelieving neighbors? Philip would have discovered divine possibilities had he been open to divine solutions. But he didn't look for divine solutions so he didn't discover divine possibilities. He settled for being a professing Christian, but a practicing atheist.

    "So the question for you is— have you reduced God to what is workable and manageable? Where is He indispensable in your life?"

    With your lips you profess Him; but with your life do you deny Him? A very good question for us all to consider.
  2. IamPJ

    IamPJ Well-Known Member

    Interesting to think about for sure.
  3. Meg

    Meg Well-Known Member

    I think it would take more than one misstep to be considered a practicing atheist there. More like a pattern of Christ denying behavior.
  4. mattfivefour

    mattfivefour Well-Known Member

    Sis, the point of the article in the OP is that too much Christian thinking is reflective of carnal thinking. God asks something of us, or some situation faces us, and the first thing we do is check our resources, to see what WE can do. The point is, that should not be the first resort of the Christian. As C.H. Macintosh said more than a hundred years go, "Praying and planning will never do together." Until we come to the end of ourselves in trying to deal with a problem, God cannot show Himself. In seeking a solution from our own ideas or capabilities, we react no differently than the atheist. And that was Dr. Price's point.

    Here is the full citation from Macintosh's great Commentary on the Pentateuch:


    "And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him. Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed." (Genesis 32:6-7a) But what does he first do? Does he at once cast himself upon God? No; he begins to manage. "He divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands; and said, If Esau come to the one company and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape." (Genesis 32: 8) Jacob's first thought was always a plan, and in this we have a true picture of the poor human heart. True, he turns to God, after he makes his plan, and cries to Him for deliverance; but no sooner does he cease praying than he resumes the planning. Now, praying and planning will never do together. If I plan, I am leaning more or less on my plan; but when I pray, I should lean exclusively upon God. Hence, the two things are perfectly incompatible; they virtually destroy each other. When my eye is filled with my own management of things, I am not prepared to see God acting for me; and, in that case, prayer is not the utterance of my need, but the mere superstitious performance of something which I think ought to be done, or it may be, asking God to sanctify my plans. This will never do. It is not asking God to sanctify and bless my means, but it is asking Him to do it all Himself.* {*No doubt, when faith allows God to act, He will use His own agency; but this is a totally different thing from His owning and blessing the plans and arrangements of unbelief and impatience. This distinction is not sufficiently understood.}

    Though Jacob asked God to deliver him from his brother Esau, he evidently was not satisfied with that, and therefore he tried to "appease him with a present." Thus his confidence was in the "present," and not entirely in God. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." It is often hard to detect what is the real ground of the heart's confidence. We imagine, or would fain persuade ourselves, that we are leaning upon God, when we are, in reality, leaning upon some scheme of our own devising. Who, after hearkening to Jacob's prayer, wherein he says, "Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children," (Genesis 32:11) could imagine him saying, "I will appease him with a present." (Genesis 32:20) Had he forgotten his prayer? Was he making a God of his present? Did he place more confidence in a few cattle than in Jehovah, to whom he had just been committing himself? These are questions which naturally arise out of Jacob's actings in reference to Esau, and we can readily answer them by looking into the glass of our own hearts. There we learn, as well as on the page of Jacob's history, how much more apt we are to lean on our own management than on God; but it will not do; we must be brought to see the end of our management, that it is perfect folly, and that the true path of wisdom is to repose in full confidence upon God.

    Nor will it do to make our prayers part of our management. We often feel very well satisfied with ourselves when we add prayer to our arrangement, or when we have used all lawful means, and called upon God to bless them. When this is the case, our prayers are worth about as much as our plans, inasmuch as we are leaning upon them instead of upon God. We must be really brought to the end of everything with which self has ought to do; for until then, God cannot show Himself. But we can never get to the end of our plans until we have been brought to the end of ourselves. We must see that "all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field." (Isaiah. 40: 6)
  5. twerpv

    twerpv Well-Known Member

    It is a GREAT question for all to hear. How many times do "we" worry, fret, plot, plan, scheme, etc. in regards to sooooo many things. Or maybe it is just me. I will say over the past couple years, I have been a little more 'pressed' and that has driven me closer to Him. However, being stressed or even worried, isn't that a lack of true belief?
  6. Betty

    Betty Well-Known Member


    I think this article is way off. Philip saw a need and he was willing take his own money to feed the people.

    And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
    Act 8:27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
    Act 8:28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
    Act 8:29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
    Act 8:30 And Philip ran thither to [him], and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
    Act 8:31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
    Act 8:32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
    Act 8:33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
    Act 8:34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
    Act 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
    Act 8:36 And as they went on [their] way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, [here is] water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
    Act 8:37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
    Act 8:38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
    Act 8:39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
    Act 8:40 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.

    Obviously Philip proved not to be an atheist.
  7. livin_in_the_Son

    livin_in_the_Son Well-Known Member


    With all due respect...the disciples had already witnessed many of Jesus' miracles performed before the feeding of the 5000, but they still lacked the faith to trust that He would provide as He said, to the point of unbelief (Mk 6:35-37). That was the point the OP was making.
  8. Betty

    Betty Well-Known Member

    But Jesus said Himself that He had lost none of His disciples except for Judas. So I believe we can say none of the disciples were atheist except for Judas.
    Did Philip show alot of faith at that moment? No but that did not make him an atheist. Peter went on to deny Christ but that did no make him an atheist.
    The world is full of people who call themselves Christians but are not. But I believe this writer made a mistake calling Philip an atheist.
  9. mattfivefour

    mattfivefour Well-Known Member

    Betty, the pastor's point is not that Philip was an atheist, because he clearly was a believer. It is that in response to a problem he was faced with Philip immediately thought first of what HE could do, not what God could do. And when we do that we are no different than an atheist in our reaction to a problems The pastors point, and what God wants, is for us to think FIRST of Him when faced with a difficulty ... not last. :hug
  10. Lynn

    Lynn Well-Known Member

    Stephen Charnock, in his great well-known book, The Existence and Attributes of God, discusses this very same concept. It's a good point and well worth being reminded of. Just a couple of months ago, I was faced with a particular thorny situation, and even though I am a believer in Jesus Christ, I plunged ahead to try and solve the problem without first praying about it and going to God's Word for true wisdom in how to respond. Even after many years of being in the Word, I still needed to rely on Him to help me to manifest a Christ-like spirit as I went through it. I learned something though. I don't ever want to deal with difficult issues again without Him directing my every thought, word, & action. True wisdom comes only from Him, not from ourselves.
  11. Hannah

    Hannah Well-Known Member


    The Pastor quoted by Matt was not intimating Phillip was an actual athiest. Of course he was a Believer and an Apostle. We all agree on that point. :hug

    The Pastor was trying to say Phillip was trying to do what Jesus asked him to do in his own strength and that of those around him. What Phillip neglected was to TURN to the Lord for the ability to do what was asked of him.

    None of us can serve God in our own human strength because we do not have supernatural power of our own. We need to call upon the Lord who gives us the power to do the work he asks us to do for Him here on Earth.

    At this point in Phillips walk with the Lord he and the other disciples hadn't learned to rely in and trust in the Lord's power. They were still immature in their faith and still had to learn about how God can empower us to serve Him.

    I agree with you the Pastor could have chosen a better way or clearer way to express his teaching. Maybe he should have only said that Phillip's solutions to Christ's request were human ones the same sort of solutions and Unbeliever may have came up with instead of using the term Athiest. Phillip was thinking at that moment only in human terms and had not thought beyond what he or the other disciples could do, he hadn't considered that he could turn to God to help him.

    As you said Phillip wanted to try and do what Jesus asked him but some tasks given to us we do not have our own resources to fulfill the task that is asked of us to do. The lesson Jesus taught the disciples here is that when it looks impossible for you to do then you must turn to the Lord for His provision. Some things are beyond our ability or finances or spritual strength to do but with God we can do the impossible. It is impossible to feed five thousand people with only five loaves and two small fish but we know a God who is able to do the impossible and we can rely on Him to help us serve Him and fulfill the tasks He asks us to do for him.

    I hope this gives the OP a bit more clarity. :hat:

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