Readers might also be interested in this outstanding article on “Christian Atheism” at The Other Journal (HT James KA Smith, at The Church and Postmodern Culture):
Why Every Christian Should ‘Quite Rightly Pass for an Atheist’, by Jon Stanley:
Perhaps we will tolerate some level of ambiguity when it comes to politics. After all, it may be perfectly legitimate to be authentically “torn” between being either a Republican or a Democrat (and the Independent vote is becoming an increasingly viable position). But this level of ambivalence is rarely tolerated when it comes to religion. Being torn between being an atheist or a theist, or confessing one’s uncomfortability with the categories themselves, is usually interpreted as either weak-willed, weak-minded, or both….
[Yet post-modern philosopher Jacques] Derrida has continually drawn attention to the “porous boundaries” between atheism and theism. He speaks of a certain type of “theism” that “at times so resembles a profession of atheism as to be mistaken for it,” as well as a certain form of “atheism” that has “always testified to the most intense desire for God.”… While this may at first sound like an affront to believing ears, Derrida… is actually echoing a very biblical notion. In biblical terms, authentic faith is not characterized by the denial of one’s doubt and unbelief, but by acknowledging it (dare I say, embracing it), and praying along with the father of the boy who had just been healed by Jesus, “I believe, I don’t believe, help my unbelief.”…
For [Soren] Kierkegaard, the virtues that characterize the life of the one who recognizes they are always “becoming Christian” are “humility” and “rigor” (the humility of admitting that we have not fully arrived at Christ-likeness, and the rigor of the whole-hearted pursuit of becoming like Christ). Contrast these virtues with the vices of “pride” and “sloth” that characterize the life of the one who confesses to having arrived at “being a Christian.”
Read the whole thing, then read Ben Suriano’s response:
Reclaiming something of the subversive core of Christianity in order to more radically challenge and transform our dominant social ideologies is of utmost importance for Christians today. Indeed, Stanley has done us a great favor in passionately articulating this urgent need, and I therefore stand with him in pursuing these concerns.
Yet I believe that such concerns could be more fruitfully pursued without an appeal to atheism or Derrida. I believe that, at times, Stanley obscures some of his best insights about the radicality of Christianity by placing too much emphasis on how it “quite rightly passes for atheism” and not enough emphasis on how it more significantly does “not quite” pass.