Recently, on William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith podcast, Craig talked about a prominent former pastor and seminary professor named Ryan Bell who made headlines last year saying he was going to “take a year off” from his Christian faith and live as if he were an atheist. Bell wrote:
I will live as if there is no God. I will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration… I will do whatever I can to enter the world of atheism and live, for a year, as an atheist. It’s important to make the distinction that I am not an atheist. At least not yet. I am not sure what I am. That’s part of what this year is about.
I’m happy to report that the evangelical seminary that employed him swiftly fired him. A very cynical part of me imagines that there’s a book deal around the corner—following successful books such as A.J. Jacobs’s A Year of Living Biblically and Rachel Held Evans’s A Year of Biblical Womanhood. “A Year of Living Without God”—or something like that.
Why would he need to conduct this experiment to know what it’s like to live without God?
I wouldn’t! I’ve hardly lived my Christian life so consistently that I can’t imagine what it’s like to live without God. Can anyone?
I’ve known days without God. Maybe weeks. I’ve gone through stretches of time when I’ve lived as if I were practically an atheist—even as I was going through the motions of Christian faith. Fortunately, when I’ve wandered, God has always gotten hold of me and brought me back safely into the fold.
My point is this: During those times in my life when I’ve lived as if I were practically an atheist, I was hurting myself. I was robbing myself of happiness, joy, peace, and contentment—bringing myself under God’s judgment!
But when I’ve wandered from the narrow and difficult path of faith, I never considered who else I was hurting. At least until I heard Craig’s podcast. When talking about how destructive it is to take a year off from your faith, Dr. Craig asked, “What about all these people that God would have had him pray for during that year?”
That convicts me. When we become members of a church, we have a responsibility—a duty—toward one another. A duty to support and love one another by praying for each other.
As I’ve emphasized in my past two sermons, praying makes a difference in people’s lives. And, sadly, not praying also makes a difference!