Can An Atheist Change? Ask Ebenezer Scrooge this Christmas…

The wonderful thing about life is that we all can change. The future is not settled. We have the capacity to surprise and delight God in the decisions that we make. Even an atheist can change!

In the famous story, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge, in reference to the tombstone which he saw in the vision, asks: “Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they the shadows of the things that may be, only?” Scrooge adds: “Men’s course will foreshadow certain ends to which, if persevered in, they must lead, but if the courses be departed form, the ends will change.”

Scrooge pleads: “Assure me that I may yet change these shadows you have thrown at me, by an altered life. Oh, tell me that I may sponge away the writing on this stone.” (Narrative help from Clark H. Pinnock, Most Moved Mover)

Ebenezer Scrooge wanted to know if the future was still open; if he could in fact, shape it, choose differently, and write a new story with his life. He wanted to know if his actions could affect it. And the story goes on to answer that question.

Can people change? Specifically, can an atheist change? Can one who has built this very complex philosophical structure around their lives, abandon a worldview that is unable to answer the deeper life questions? Can one turn his or her back on rationalizations once held dear? Can an atheist actually become a theist, who honors their true Creator and live their life for Him? Can an atheist be brave enough to challenge the arguments of his or her atheistic friends because the evidence has begun to point toward theism?

Yes, a thousand times, “Yes!”

Elie(zer) Wiesel, the concentration camp survivor, remarked: “God made man because he loves stories.” I want to modify his statement slightly. “God made man with free will because he loves stories with surprise endings.” All human beings, especially atheists, have the capacity to surprise and delight God with the decisions that we make. He’s watching your story and has been for a long time.

You’ve been writing a story all your life, a story full of unique characters, some that make you laugh, others that make you cry; a story that has taken place in a variety of settings and locations, some pleasant, some not so pleasant; and a story that has had many digressions of plot which have taken you down many roads, some of which were dead-end ally-ways.

Christmas says that there needs to be a chapter written into the story of your life where character, setting, and plot all converge into a moment – a here and now moment; a moment when you realize that God has been tracking your story all along the way; a moment when you realize that you’ve had many opportunities to surprise and delight Him, to turn the plot of your life into a favorable, God-honoring direction. And for whatever reason, your life story has taken a different path.

The greatest application of what we as human beings have experienced at Christmas would be for us to turn the pen over to God and say “God, you write my story now. I need Someone who can take all the bits and pieces, all the bad decisions, and self-centered chapters, the selfish streaks, the ugly impulses, the lust and the hate and the simple ambition to make something of myself – Someone who can take all of this complexity and conundrums and weave it into an incredible, surprise ending.

Don Miller gives a wonderful talk on the subject of story. He suggests in his talk that God begins from our mistakes. We make a mistake and God says, “Well, I didn’t necessarily want that in your story, but let’s begin again from there and let me use it in some incredible, unsuspecting way.”

Time after time, because of our free will, God has pieces and characters and locations thrown at Him, and at times, we are doubtful that He could do anything redeeming with it. And yet He writes on, and creates something beautiful, even inspiring from all the pieces, even atheistic pieces. God will even take the pieces of “atheism” and weave it into a grand theme for a God-honoring life if you will, but allow Him to do it.

It’s not the evil that we do in our stories that amazes me; it’s the good that comes from the evil that we do (and this includes everybody by the way, not just atheists!). How does God do it? How does he create so much good from bad? There is no decision that God cannot use, no character beyond his reach, no plot that He cannot turn, no setting that he cannot remake and renew. Every lie told, every dollar taken, every promise broken, every bad attitude, every virtue we’ve abandoned, every opportunity we’ve wasted, God can use all of it for good in your story, but you’ve got to give Him the pen. God is a great writer, and you’ll love the surprise ending.

But can someone like an atheist change; someone who has even denied that there is even a Story-teller? You bet. Just ask Scrooge. And maybe this blog could represent a “new character” in your story, that points toward the one true God, Lover of all men, and Friend of humanity.

The future is not set in stone; you can change. Shape a better future this Christmas. Write a better story over this holiday season. And tell me about it (don’t allow your atheistic friends to intimidate you; you have a place at my table). I’d love to read your story.

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25 Comments

Filed under Atheism, Christmas, Free Will

25 responses to “Can An Atheist Change? Ask Ebenezer Scrooge this Christmas…

  1. “Can an atheist change…Can an atheist actually become a theist…”?

    Absolutely. If proof of the existence of a God or even evidence supporting the idea that a God existed was presented, atheists would change.

    Until then I’ll base my Worldview on reality rather than what I might hope, desire or wish to be true.

    Happy Holidays 🙂

  2. hi lucy…

    here’s some evidence for your consideration… (see my category tags for posts on each of these)

    the bible is reliable and has many things that argues for God’s existence (see “bible”)

    the resurrection (search “resurrection” and read posts and comments) argues for God’s existence…

    https://spiritualquestions.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/says-the-atheist-more-information-says-the-theist-i-surrender/#comment-303

    https://spiritualquestions.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/says-the-atheist-more-information-says-the-theist-i-surrender/#comment-286

    the design we see in nature (see “intelligent design”) argues for God’s existence…

    the human conscience and desire points to a Creator as well…

    https://spiritualquestions.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/says-the-atheist-more-information-says-the-theist-i-surrender/#comment-232

  3. The Tofu

    You’re right! I can change! How could I have been so blind?

    Looks like Buddhism will have a new convert this Christmas. After all, it explains all the Deeper Questions of Life (TM) that I must have answers to to avoid becoming a miserable little pile of despair.

  4. The Tofu

    Joey, how can you claim that an appearance of god would infringe on human free will in one post, and then later on present all this “evidence” that he exists?

    I’m somewhat confused- do you believe god is hidden or not?

  5. lucy…forgot to add the First Cause argument for the existence of God
    https://spiritualquestions.wordpress.com/category/first-cause/

    and also the anthropological argument for God’s existence – the image of God in man (and also look at the DNA of a single human cell.)
    https://spiritualquestions.wordpress.com/category/imago-dei/

  6. Now then…Tofu…

    there is no contradiction…

    God has self-disclosed. But, He is a self-concealor as well as a self-revealer.

    He self-conceals so as to honor free will – to allow you to write a surprise ending in your story, to move your own chess pieces. Surprise and delight Him. A fully revealed God in our present human condition, no man could stand or survive (unless he or she was “in Christ” as Paul explains) This is what so many atheist do not comprehend. Their view of eschatology is limited because they are too quick to label and dismiss an argument. God is just and will rectify evil, but He will only do so after plenty of warning. Then, His eschatological wrath (be careful here to not read more than I’ve said), will be poured out. Those who have chosen a life apart from God, have no covering when the “great revelation” occurs. they are exposed.

    He self-reveals. All this evidence points to a kind, loving God. So as to package Himself in a way that we would all understand, He came in the person of Christ – the God-Man. Just in case you missed all the other evidences of His existence, He provided the ultimate evidence in His own Son. Observe him, and we will see what God is like.

    Such a beautiful God: the question is not “How do i find Him? but “How do i miss Him?”

  7. Hi Joey,

    As evidence, the Bible suffers from a certain circular logic, (The Bible is the word of God because the Bible says the Bible is the word of God). It’s evidence on a par with accepting a book written by the prosecution entitled “The accused did it”, as evidence. As the resurrection is supported by the Bible the same problems apply there.

    The design argument makes a huge leap from “everything looks very complicated” to “God must have done it”, whilst the fact we have conscience and desires merely proves that we have conscience and desires – it in no way proves that a superbeing created us and certainly doesn’t connect that superbeing to the superbeing imaginitively created in the Koran, Bible or any of the others.

  8. Oops, two more I see 🙂

    The first clause has an obvious flaw: If everything requires a prior stage, what came before God? And if something did come before God that surely wouldn’t actually make God, God? If you suggest nothing came before God and she’s actually eternal I would suggest: Why can’t the Universe itself just be eternal?

    I’m afraid the argument you laid out – that because there is goodness in the World there must be an eternal personal God – doesn’t make any sense to me. There would seem to me to be far more convincing reasons for goodness, (On a primitive level acting kindly rather than maliciously would more likely lead to survival, for example).

    The last one you mention, that there must be a God because we look like her would seem again to rely on the Bible. (See “circular logic” issues above).

    It perhaps shouldn’t matter to you that you have no proof of a God as I imagine you have faith. Have a lovely Thanksgiving,

    Lucy 🙂

  9. The Tofu

    What about the disciples? Or the early Israelites? What about the witnesses to the resurrection? Weren’t they openly shown miracles? Moses supposedly talked to god on a one on one basis. Why aren’t these acts considered to take away free will?

    As to Jesus being the ultimate evidence, where is he? The only thing you can point to is the Bible. We can’t speak or interact with Jesus in the way the people in the New Testament did. We can’t witness him performing miracles.

    If human salvation rests on belief in god, why did these people receive more evidence than others?

    On another note, if god eventually rights all wrongs and rectifies evil, what need have we of police or the court system? Surely you wouldn’t suggest we get rid of these things.

  10. Hi Joey,

    You have some interesting metaphors above – but I believe that my new Website – http://www.AssertiveAtheistMoments.com will pose a number of Spiritual questions for you. The focus is on Epistemology, Symbols, and Symbolic Form. There is also a Blog there for your comments.

    See ya,

    Bob

  11. Don’t waste your time on the new website. Atheism is a bankrupt philosophy with no compelling answers to life’s deeper questions. Abandon it before you invest your time. Dig, study, research, and challenge, but atheism is absurd.

  12. Lucy…it sounds to me as if you yourself are circular. Any evidence submitted is immediately written off because you have already decided that God doesn’t exist. There’s plenty of proof admissable to the “court” of your opinion, but you won’t admit it for consideration. You will be hopelessly circular if you continue to reason in this manner. You’ll never get to the truth, because you have already, tried, convicted, and sentenced in the court – there is no God.

    You claim that the Bible and my evidence is circular – I claim that you yourself are circular. I’m not going to believe in God, no matter what evidence is given to me, and thus, I will continue satisfied and happy in my atheism.

  13. Miracles are acts of God, not God Himself. They are “pointers” toward God. They are sneak peaks into the world God intended (read here – the miracles performed by Christ).

    Check your Moses story. Moses saw just a glimpse of God’s “backside” – a kind of onomatopoetic expression to indicate that sinful man cannot fully behold the living God.

    Salvation is God’s work on our behalf. It’s done for us and is not contingent upon my ability to be good. That’s why I need salvation; I’m not good. Oh, there are some good things about me by virtue of God’s image in me, but my nature is fallen. But God will not force salvation on me. I can “opt out” if I want.

    Justice and the court system are necessary institutions sanctioned by the Bible to keep the creation from being overwhelmed by evil. The Fall unleashed a floodtide of evil that would totally overwhelm the creation were it not for such institutions. Wrong-doers must be held accountable in a freewill world.

    But ultimately, God resolves all injustice within these systems and within the world. this topic by the way is one of the reasons why atheism is absurd – there’s no final day of accountability in atheism.

  14. The Tofu

    “Check your Moses story. Moses saw just a glimpse of God’s “backside” – a kind of onomatopoetic expression to indicate that sinful man cannot fully behold the living God.”

    That’s not really the point, Joey. My argument is that Moses received way more evidence than most people, and this was not considered to infringe on his free will. Why does god not similarly reveal himself to others?

    “Lucy…it sounds to me as if you yourself are circular.”

    That’s your counterargument? “I know you are but what am I?” Come on.

  15. Hi Joey,

    The “evidence” you put forward I did not dismiss “immediately”. Your arguments for God were all things I’ve come across before, considered, and finally dismissed for the reasons I gave in my earlier post which you chose not to respond to.

    Finally, I have not said “there is no God”. I say: There is no reason to believe there is a God because there is no evidence.

    Lucy 🙂

  16. What would be adequate evidence for you?

  17. Lucy Lowe

    Hi Joey,

    Adequate evidence would be anything that made a Universe with a everlasting superbeing more likely than a Universe without one. For example:

    *Scientific evidence proving the Universe could only have come to be through a superior intelligence.

    The above would only prove that a God exists. In order to prove that the Christian God existed, (or any of the Gods who supposedly care about people), you would need, for example:

    An intervention by the existing God which could only be an act of God, i.e. something for which it would be even more unbelievable to think of as a coincidental or natural event. Examples would be the stars moving to form letters spelling out the word of God, animals reciting verses of the Bible or every book in the World suddenly turning into the Bible. Naturally, the event would have to be conclusively proved to have occured, and not just something mentioned in one single blog/bronze age story book.

    There would be other potential proofs for God – Proof of the effectiveness of pray by the same criteria above, (Something whereby to think of the result as a coincidence would be more unlikely than to think of it as an act of God) – would also work.

    I don’t believe in things for which there is no evidence as this seems the only reasonable position to take.

    Have a lovely day 🙂

    Lucy

  18. lucy, if you got all of this, would you really love God and believe in him?

    you already have the invervention you seek…

    “An intervention by the existing God which could only be an act of God, i.e. something for which it would be even more unbelievable to think of as a coincidental or natural event.”

    Look around you for crying out loud. Nature proclaims Him (or Her as you are fond of); watch human birth; microscope in on DNA; check out the details of a finely tuned universe; analyze the resurrection story.

    Do you really believe that naturalistic processes yields this kind of creature/creation miracle?

    The Divine Suspect is evident. How could you miss Him/Her (unless you’re pretending to be searching, while in reality you’re hiding under the auspices of “insufficient evidence”)?

  19. Lucy Lowe

    “Look around you for crying out loud. Nature proclaims Him (or Her as you are fond of); watch human birth; microscope in on DNA; check out the details of a finely tuned universe; analyze the resurrection story.”

    Yes, the World and the Universe is an incredible, breath-taking, awe-inspiring place. The difference is, it is already incredible and wonderful enough as it is, I don’t have to invent a Superbeing to make it even better. To quote Douglas Adams, “Isn’t it enough to see the beauty of the garden without having to imagine fairies in it?” As for the resurrection story: It’s a nice story, with emphasis on the last word.

    “How could you miss Him/Her (unless you’re pretending to be searching, while in reality you’re hiding under the auspices of “insufficient evidence”)?”

    If believing in your version of God makes it easier for you to live your life then – Fabulous. However, you ought not to assume that everyone believes what they want to be real is actually really true.

    Take care & have a fab day,

    Lucy 🙂

  20. The Tofu

    “Do you really believe that naturalistic processes yields this kind of creature/creation miracle?”

    Yes.

    Don’t think the first cause argument impresses anyone Joey. Even if it weren’t a load of bunk, it still would only be an argument for a designer, not the Christian god.

  21. Lucy… I think you want an “explanation” for the “explanation” when you talk about who caused God.

    Believing in God and looking to him for an explanation of how and why things came to be, does not require that He have an explanation. God is “I AM.”

  22. Lucy Lowe

    Hey Joey,

    “Believing in God and looking to him for an explanation of how and why things came to be, does not require that He have an explanation. God is “I AM.”

    Accepting the World and looking to it for how and why things came to be, does not require an explanation. The World “IS.”

    I think if there was a God then “Where did she come from?” would be a valid question.

    Lucy 🙂

  23. An explanation of the explanation of the explanation of the explanation of the explanation of the explanation…

    See what I mean…

  24. Lucy Lowe

    “An explanation of the explanation of the explanation of the explanation of the explanation of the explanation…

    See what I mean…”

    I think I see what you mean. (Although your line about “God is I AM” confused me, I’d appreciate some clarification of this if you have the time). You seem to be suggesting that an explanation which requires a further explanation isn’t a very good explanation.

    I would say that along with there being no proof for God it also doesn’t explain anything but, as you pointed out, merely brings up more questions.

    Lucy 🙂

  25. I think you’re right on Lucy. This is one of my points of contention and really lies behind this entire blog (but I like how you’ve said it here). It is one thing to make an assertion (There is no God); it is quite another matter to offer an explanation, that avoids an infinite loop of explanations, to explain things, namely the deeper questions of life.

    And perhaps, we set ourselves up for this infinite loop of endless explanations, because we have not asked the right questions. I’m reminded of this line: “The answer to your questions will come, but only after you know which ones are worth asking.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach. The intellectually satisfying explanations are there, if only we would ask the right questions.

    The I AM refers to the time when God revealed Himself as “the ultimate explanation” of all things, timeless, eternal, infinite – not I WAS, not I WILL Be; but I AM (Exodus 3). It’s based on a Hebrew verb that means “to be.” God’s “Name” becomes a summary statement of his own nature. “I Am Who I Am” is the explanation for all things, and emphasizes God’s dynamic and active self-existence. He, who cannot be explained, explains. He discloses intimacy, but preserves mystery. He cannot be reduced to a definition or a single idea, and thus be controlled by our explanations. But it is from the Unexplainable that we have explanations, good explanations that don’t need explained, and yet not everything is revealed by the I AM.

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