Friday, April 30, 2010

Christians and Atheists - Some Common Ground

What do Christians and atheists have in common?

Well, for starters, they have both been dubbed “atheists.”

It’s true. Back in the first century of the church’s life, Christians were considered “atheists” because they wouldn’t sacrifice to the gods of the Roman Empire. Incidentally, those gods are no longer with us except in history books so it was a good choice.

In an early Christian writing called The Martyrdom of Polycarp (c. 160), for example, we read that the authorities tried to get the venerable old Polycarp to denounce his faith. They told him to say, “Away with the atheists!”

It may seem strange that “away with the atheists!” was a way of denouncing Christianity, but it was. Again, the Christians were viewed as atheists for refusing to bow to the gods of the day.

Now, I don’t get into conversations with many atheists these days. Meaning anti-theists. But when and if I do, perhaps this can be a source of common ground.

But a wonder whether we have common ground with the “atheistic” Christians of the first centuries. Polycarp and 11 others who were burned alive for their “atheism” in Rome. When we meet these 12 disciples, and a host of others, will we be able to look them in the eye and say, “We too denied the gods of our age.”

To live is Christ, to die is gain.

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