June 17, 2021

Who is Influencing You?

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I first encountered Amanda on an atheist blog that chose to challenge the existence of God. After a few volleys, I left that comment discussion because I realized that it had devolved into exactly what I thought it would– a chance for Christians to be on an Atheist home turf to be mocked and laughed at as a clown. Rarely is it actually an open an honest discussion– even if there’s not a comment saying as such, you can be sure that those that are reading that site are sitting behind either laughing or shaking their heads about “the foolish” Christian. The Bible said that the Word of God is foolishness to the Greek– so we should not be surprised.

At that point, I stuck her blog in my feed reader, and have followed what’s going on over there ever since. Until this last week, everything was fine. Until last Wednesday when she went on an, albeit brief, Hiatus. Now, I know that bloggers have the tendency to get bogged down, to need a break, or just leave. So I offered prayer and help, and then she came back with a post saying that “I want God to leave me alone and to be happy with me leaving Him alone.” She rightly comes to the conclusion that if she were to say that she no longer believes in the God that she has always said she proclaimed it will bring her blog to naught. Some things are downright scary and have me wondering if she was a true Christian at all:

For my entire life, I’ve always done what’s expected of me – even where God is concerned. I know that there have been periods where my desire for God has been real, but I think that most of it has been me doing what I’m supposed to do.

And I’m tired of it.

Donald Miller said, “I began to wonder if becoming a Christian did not work more like falling in love than agreeing with a list of true principles.”

Well guess what? I’m not in love with God! Or Jesus, for that matter.

He also described me pretty well when he said, “I grew up believing a Christian didn’t have to love God or anybody else; he just had to believe some things and be willing to take a stand for the things he believed.”

That’s me. And I think I’ve done those pretty darn well. But it turns out that’s not what God wants from me. But do I really want to give God what He wants?

And that leads to yesterday when she declared that she no longer believes in the God of the Bible, but has taken at least a more deist tack– a watchmaker god that created the world and left it alone. A probably real Jesus, that was inflated and twisted in writings by His followers.

I believe that this was brought about by how I lead this off. Left around Atheists and Agnostics long enough to feed doubt, those that have grown up in the faith have the same crossroads they must face as those saved later in life– mainly, who am I and what do I really believe?

Start with a Christian Foundation from an Early Age

You see, unlike those that are saved out of a life of deep sin, those of us that have a very young conversion experience usually do not have as good of a before and after picture. For me, I can always remember being the “good kid”– and those that claim salvation even younger always believe they were saved. Without the stark contrast, one can get older never knowing a difference which can feed the idea that “I’ve always been able to be moral and good, and I don’t need God.”

Add in Some Differing Views.

The longer we spend time around people of a specific belief, the more influenced we are by it. People seek out those of like thought for many reasons– common bonds, things to talk about, reassurance, and reinforcement. All of these things happen, even if you aren’t looking for them.

This is true for families– the longer time that you spend in a home with a given set of rules, the more comfortable you are with the rules. It is only when there is a conflicting set of morality or rules enters that there is a choice: Do I continue with what I know or do I choose another?

The same is true here. Amanda grew up believing one thing, she has had it reinforced, and she truly believes/believed it. However, she has not spent considerable time talking with atheists and those that question the very things that she holds foundation to who she is/was. She now is at a crossroads of who she will become.

And now you have doubt

Let this be a sign for those that would spend time in discussion of things that disagree with their beliefs. At some point you’re going to have doubts (grass is always greener effect)– and how will you cope. And this is not isolated to Christianity, Atheism, or any religion– as people change what they believe based on who they are around all the time. Since we are beings that are thusly influenced the question of what really is truth is important.

For Amanda, she now even doubts the very thing that she has been saying to the Atheists. And, like I said, she understands the impact she is having. Atheists are already saying they are witnessing the butterfly coming out of the cocoon– meaning that she is finally becoming enlightened throwing off the old belief in religion. She’s starting to talk about how the Bible was written by men with an agenda. She’s beginning to undermine everything that she believes/believed and in the process give the very people she has been trying to minister even more hardened hearts so that they may, in turn, mock those that believe the more.

Who is Influencing You?

Who are you choosing to spend your time with? What thoughts are you entertaining that are at odds with what you believe? Are you engaging in activities that go against your faith? Is your faith based on works and what you’ve done, or a love for God. The latter is the key. Regardless of when you came to Christ you are a changed being. Now you must live like it.

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16 thoughts on “Who is Influencing You?

  1. I’m not sure your assessment is entirely correct, but it’s understandable. As I read this post, my heart became heavy. But only because I’m so concerned with what other people think about me. This is my real problem. I need to figure out how to stop being influenced by other people and other people’s perceptions of me – so you do, at least, have that part correct.

    Contrary to popular belief, I actually don’t spend much time with the “atheists.” There are two who regularly read and comment on my blog, and one agnostic. My closest friends (who I spend the majority of my time with) are all strong Christians.

    It’s not necessarily who you’re with, but who you are, that influences your choices.

  2. I am not sure about this post.

    I had thought about doing a post on this at my own blog, but felt that I didn’t want to dissect what could be someone’s crumbling faith as fodder for my blog.

    I too have seen the influence on Amanda from the blog “friends” that she has, but not knowing her personally leaves little room for my analysis of the situation.

    I think it’s between her and God now.

  3. Amanda – I was trying to write what I was thinking/feeling as a comment, but it was turning out to be a book. I’m in agreement that you have to be true to who you are, but contrary to your last sentence (as you admit in your third) we (you, I, all of us) are impacted to great and small degrees but what we let in and what we believe others think of us. I don’t know how much time you spend with atheists. I found you on one site having discussions with them, so I’m assuming that it goes beyond just the three that comment on your blog. I also know that it’s easier to “be who you are” online when there’s the illusion of privacy. (Says the guy with the pseudonym!) That is dangerous in and of itself.

    Terri – I understand your concern. I’m not trying to kick Amanda while she’s down, or analyze her, except to give fair warning and to comment on the trend I see happening. Right now in my church (and others I’m affiliated with) we are analyzing what’s going on with youth that made an early profession and now seem to live for themselves. It’s scary. So, perhaps it was poor timing. Perhaps I should have made it more generic. But I felt the need to voice my concern and what I was seeing, and get feedback.

    I apologize, Amanda, if I have offended, and will remove/modify the post upon your request.

  4. Here’s my take. I speak as one who is a Christian and who is also a “token” Christian on a couple of online forums…Amanda, God has no grandchildren. It could be you are going through a season of doubt in preparation for coming back to and/or finding God for yourself.

    It is easy to assume one is a Christian when one grows up in a Christian household and/or has a ton of Christian friends. But one can be a Christian culturally without being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, i.e. being born again.

    Perhaps God in His ultimate mercy is allowing you to come to the end of what until this point have been merely “convenient” beliefs-and now He wants you to seek Him until you find Him for yourself. Once that happens, it won’t matter a whit what the atheists say.

  5. Oh no, don’t do that! I’m not offended. In all honesty, I was/am a little hurt by it, but that’s to be expected. I greatly value what other people think of me and, unfortunately, that’s where I get much of my worth. So to see all of your thoughts in black and white was disheartening. But expected and understood.

    You’ve taken a stand for what you believe in, and that’s a very good thing – please don’t apologize for it on my account. It’s what I want to do, but I don’t know what I believe in anymore. I don’t have answers to all of my questions. I don’t know where to take my stands anymore.

    You’re right about the atheists. For awhile there (especially back when Martian actually posted on Martian’s blog), I was absolutely immersed in conversation with atheists. That dwindled, but I had made a few friends who respected me for what I had say and the manner in which I said it. Those are the few that have stuck around and are currently the ones “corrupting me.” (No, I really don’t believe that, but I know a lot of you are thinking it so I’ll just go ahead and say it.)

    My personality type is one of “all or nothing.” It always seems to be one extreme or the other with me. There’s a middle ground, I’m sure, but I don’t think I can find it after 20 years of habit.

  6. Amanda,

    No one has answers to all their questions. It is a good thing to be all or nothing. Because Christ says He will spew out of His mouth those who are lukewarm.

    Many of the things that atheists say are confusing. I’ve had my own confusing conversations with them. I have heard what they say, I have seen how it can be so compelling to them, so real that they are sure of it. I have questioned my own faith (to an extent) because of what they have said…

    I have a conversion experience. I was raised Christian, but always questioned it, from my earliest memory. But I saw the Lord change me as I relied on Him and nothing can cause me to forget who I used to be. It is that experience that I am able to cling to when I cannot understand His Word, and when my doubts are large and looming.

    I am praying for you. I pray that the Lord ropes you in again and gives you the confidence in Him that passes ALL UNDERSTANDING. Wisdom is freely given to those who ask Him for it. When you are confused and don’t understand His ways (which are so much higher than ours), ask Him to give you wisdom and peace. Perfect peace belongs to those whose mind is stayed on Him.

    May the Lord bless you and keep you, may He make His face to shine upon you, and give you peace,
    Mrs. Meg Logan

  7. I am the oldest of four children, raised in a Christian home. When I say ‘Christian’ I mean that I believe that God sent His Son to die for me. I do not believe that you are a Christian ‘culturally’…but I have not researched that thoroughly enough at this time to really defend that.

    What I wanted to say…I think all of us, Believers and non-Believers have a time in our lives when we must make a decision to believe or not to believe. If we are raised in a Christian home, at some point we need to understand and KNOW what we believe biblically and then have faith in it. It can not be our parent’s or friend’s faith in God, it HAS to be OURS. This didn’t really happen for me until I was going through some pretty serious testing in my life in my early 30’s. I couldn’t rely on my parent’s belief system any longer and I had to ‘study to show myself approved, a workman not ashamed’. I had to know and understand God’s truths for myself.

    Two of my siblings went through this time in their lives while they were in college. They came out of it with a God belief, but that is about it. They no longer live their lives for God. It does sadden me. But NO ONE can snatch them out of God’s hands if they were saved as children. I have to have faith in that.

    I pray for my siblings daily. I will be praying for you, Amanda. If you are saved, the Holy Spirit will be working in you. Have faith in that, study His word. Give God as much of a chance as you would a non-believer. I think the answers will start tumbling in!

  8. Amanda,
    Have you heard of Max Lucado? He writes children’s and adult books…and has a children’s book called You Are Special. It paints a wonderful picture of how we can place all our value in what others think if we aren’t grounded in our self worth from God. Which comes from spending time daily with our Maker…
    Hope this helps!

  9. There are probably more agnostics than there are atheists. I am sure of it. They are so confused and are not even sure what to believe in.

    I am happy to say that every single one of my friends have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and we are so open about our faith in all of our conversations.

    I get so used to talking with fellow believers, that at times, I get shocked at stores when I hear foul language or seeing such inappropiate behavior displayed.

    When I am around my friends, I feel safe that my boys are not going to pick up anything that is not of God. However, I am not blind enough to believe all kids homes have God the Father as the head.

    I was forced to sever a friendship between my boys and their little friend next door. He was teaching them bad words, how to flip the bird, and peeing in our yard and then the clincher was he told my boys he did not believe in God.

  10. Terri, I meant no offense, I figured that you wanted the avatar you were used to instead of the random one assigned to you. I usually get complaints about the random avatars that are assigned, and have gotten into the habit of finding an appropriate image from the site that someone leaves to use as an image. If it’s a problem, I’ll remove it immediately.

  11. It’s not a problem…..I just like to be notified or asked about things like that. Call me a blog etiquette snob.

    You can keep it.

    Next time just ask.

    I don’t usually bite

  12. Interesting post.

    I have never read Amanda’s blog so I am only going on your comments.

    However it seems to me that if chatting with few atheists has undermined her faith to that extent she was probably never really what I think you would describe as a Christian.

    It depends on what you think a true definition of a Christian is. If being a Christian means signing on the dotted line and keeping away from anyone who might make you think enough to change your mind then she failed the test.

    If it means a lifelong work of communicating with God, learning to love your neighbour and working through your doubts maybe she’s just on a journey that ultimately will lead to a better understanding of what God and Christianity are really all about.

  13. Buffy, pretty keen observations.

    I have been in further contact with Amanda, and this is certainly deeper than a casual chat with an atheist. I guess this post is a mixed post in that regard. On the one hand, I’m reacting to a post and my limited understanding of her position (spiritually, theologically, etc.) and what I’ve seen of her blog and her comments in various places. On the other hand I’m trying to address what I’m seeing in local churches and the amount of influence a person can exert on another over time.

    We’re all impacted by those around us in ways that we’re not always able to detect. That’s the danger.

    As for your comment about what I think Christianity is– it’s important to take a stand for God, to spread the Good News of Salvation from sin, and that means that we have to relate to non-believers. But that doesn’t mean that we should cultivate close relationships to the point that they sway you from your faith. The problem with radicalized atheism is that they are out to convert you as much as you may be trying to win them– and often they know the scripture and apologetics better than the average church goer. Someone wades into the discussion, tries a few things that they know, does not stick to the Gospel and what they know from experience, and the next thing they know they have doubts and they don’t know where to turn to get answers they now believe.

    Where does someone turn? To the Christians that you now view as not having it all together (since they didn’t equip you well enough to defend yourself)? To the atheists, who you’ve always fought against? And what about the stands you took?

    You find yourself in this curious position of not knowing who to trust because you know that both peoples have their opinions, and the atheists have succeeded in making you question everything.

    So yes, the latter is a good path. My post is trying to warn of the dangers of getting entangled in theological discussions that take “what Jesus is doing in my life” out of the equation.

    And, as Amanda said in previous comments, perhaps I misread how entangled she was.

  14. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
    – Matt 5:11-12

    And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day.
    – John 6:39

    Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
    – Matt 6:27

    Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.
    -Deut 31:6

    To the Christians that you now view as not having it all together (since they didn’t equip you well enough to defend yourself)?

    No, we haven’t prepared our brothers and sisters well enough. There’s definately a tendency in the Church to let sleeping Christians lie. That is to say, if someone doesn’t appear to be caught up in some deadly sin, it is assumed that they are doing just fine. It’s rare for Christians to truly come together and get to know each other in Spirit.

    But to the concern over atheism in the Church? Prepare yourselves with faith and love. If you love your brothers then you will know them and they will know you. It is not for nothing that the Lord has called us to confess our sins one to another and to bear each other’s burdens. It is not for nothing that the second command is to love your neighbor as yourself. These things are central and if we’re ignoring them, we can stay away from drugs and cigarettes, alcohol and adultery all we want. We can have all our quivers full, we can debate and witness, we can pray and fast all we want, but without Love it all comes to nothing.

    However, take faith as well, for the Lord knows who He has predestined and shall not lose any. He also hears our prayers in faith, so take up the shield of faith understanding that faith is a gift from the Most High and not something you have the power to muster. Amanda and all others will come around if they seek after the Truth. But let’s not make the mistake of believing that God’s children can be stolen away! That lends too much credit to the enemy who is vanquished on the Cross. Remember in faith that God is the victor on the Cross, and He brought you out of bondage and was with you in the desert and has given you the down payment of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of His promises.

    Remember, we Christians DON’T have it all together… thats the difference between Christians and Pharisees!

    We’re all impacted by those around us in ways that we’re not always able to detect. That’s the danger.

    This is why we are supposed to be mindful of what we set before our eyes. But it doesn’t mean you can’t watch a horror flick or some other silly man-made law, it means that you don’t take the horror into your spirit but you recognize it for what it is: darkness. You have the Living God inside you, how then will you be tossed about by every breeze?

    This whole mess is a crisis of Faith and I think I’ve been seeing it all too often in the Church today.

    MInTheGap… I don’t want to insult you, but are you so unsure of your own relationship with Christ that you should worry about this and entertain feelings of doubt and anxiety? Nobody is getting stolen away!

    When you pray, instead of praying, ‘Lord, I just pray that you will bring back those who have gone astray.’

    Try something more like this, “Lord, thank you that you have promised to keep us and protect us. I know that your promises are true and unfailing. I eagerly await the day when those of your flock who seem to be slipping away are gloriously united. Amen!”

    I’m not saying you don’t already pray that way, but your posts do sort of have a tone of deep concern and maybe even fear that God’s people might be lost.

    Anyway, please don’t take offense to the tone of this post, I only mean to come off strong for the sake of your encouragement in faith.


  15. Arthur, perhaps you have gotten the wrong impression. I don’t doubt that God is able to keep and protect His people. I do think, however, that someone has to come along side those that have doubts, and I can see– from a human perspective– just how difficult and challenging it can be if you find yourself doubt the very people that you would normally seek for help.

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