Atheists who repent, and stay Atheist

I couldn’t sum it up in a title. What I find interesting, basically, is the power of not sinning, even for those who don’t believe in God.

If you look at many successful people, you’ll find that they practice some form of self-denial or self-discipline. And this seems to be a central component of their success, or perseverance. In IQ tests, delayed gratification and self discipline are core markers of higher intelligence.

But I digress. The topic interests me, because sometimes I think my Dad would make a better Christian than me but he is an unbeliever. But he has incredible self discipline, and to my knowledge, much less sin in his life than most Christians apart from unbelief of course. And he is much more intelligent than me, I didn’t get that gene or destroyed it in my teens.

But, I think not sinning is so powerful even for the unbelievers. There are obvious reasons of health and morality that play into this, but still it kind of amazes me how not sinning can so powerfully impact an unbeliever’s life also. If I were a skeptic, I could use this as an argument against the benefits of repentance in a believer’s life citing the similar benefits to unbelievers alike.

This is something I would like to bring up if I were to attend a conference or speaking event with some of the RZIM apologists and speakers.


@ReSound-TruckDriver Good question :slight_smile: I think we need to define the word repent carefully. Your father has not repented in the Biblical sense. Repentance in the Bible is not only about turning away from sin, it is even more so about turning toward God. In fact, anything we turn toward other than God is idolatry. We can make an idol out of our own achievement, out of our career, even out of our own ability to control our passions… Anything that we turn to and rely upon instead of God for ultimate life, joy and meaning is an idol. As Jeremiah said of old, it is like a cracked cistern that cannot hold water.

Jeremiah 2:13 - "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

The Gospel is not about behavior and self-control, it is about finding life in God; about knowing and being known by God. Our behavior flows out of the love we have received from God and the love He has put within our hearts. Our self-righteousness can separate us from God just as easily as our sin, because it makes us think we do not need God. But the whole point of the Biblical narrative is that there is no life apart from God.

John 17:3 - Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

John 14:6 - Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Here is a short video (more below) where Tim Keller points out you need to help people understand the Gospel is not moralism - it is a third way.

Unless you distinguish the Gospel from moralism, secular people just assume you’re calling them to better behavior Tim Keller

Ravi on Reaching the Happy Thinking Pagan

Ravi Zacharias: The happy pagan is wrapped up in the belief that this world and the success it affords are the greatest pursuits in life. He or she feels no need for anything transcendent. Life has been reduced to temporal pursuits disconnected from all the other disciplines necessary for life to be meaningfully engaged.

Some are completely unreflective; they don’t think enough to know they have no right to be happy. They borrow on capital they don’t have. Many of these people, though, are sophisticated thinkers in their fields-scientists, mathematicians, computer engineers. They are specialists with a glaring weakness: The do not ask the questions of life itself.

Tim Keller on the Gospel and Idolatry

Great resources from Tim Keller on how the Gospel is so much more than just moral conformity.

The gospel is not moral conformity, which is religion, nor is it self-discovery, which is secularism. The gospel is something else altogether


@SeanO Thanks, good points all. I understand he has not repented in the Biblical sense. Though fair warning to be careful about presenting these topics so as not to confuse the secular.

I think what I was trying to say is it is possible for people to live according to Biblical principles and benefit from it without believing. This does not mean they have repented from the sin of unbelief or all the other hidden sins of the heart inwardly and outwardly. But there are plenty of self-help books and other religions which all teach some form of self-denial or morality.

I think my Father’s generation has benefited from having been taught the values and morality of the Bible and yet turned away from God spiritually. His parents, my grandparents, were church going believers and brought up their children as such. He, and all his brothers, have lived very successful lives. I think this is due to how they were raised by their parents and in the church. But most all have turned away from God and do not profess to believe. I can only pray he and his brothers will turn their hearts back to God. And that I will have success and live as morally upstanding lives as they.