Driving a Stake Through the Heart of “Christian” Nihilism


Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
—Mark 10:27

Read that verse again. Now I want to ask a question: Is it true?

If any of us had to think even a split second about the answer, then something’s wrong. If any of us pondered for the briefest of moments a situation too impossible, then something’s wrong.

I can tell you with a straight face that something’s wrong with us American Christians. Winston Churchill said it...And that something is that we do not believe in our heart of hearts that all things are possible with God.

Frankly, I’m sick of fellow believers telling me what is and what is not possible. I’ve had it with Christians telling me, “Well, that’s just the way it is.”

If anything is “just the way it is,” then it’s that way because you and I don’t have faith. Period.

Folks, there’s a heckuva lot of nihilism out there masked as “practical” Christianity. Plenty of “mature Christians” will attempt to calm you down when you see something wrong and start asking why Christians in whom the Living God of the Universe dwells can’t tackle that thing and make it right.

Does anyone here think the Apostle Paul looked at Rome and said, “I think I’ll go someplace easier to evangelize”–anyone?

Look, all this naysaying talk comes down to one thing: unbelief.

One of my favorite quotes by the late revivalist Leonard Ravenhill went something like this:

One of these days, someone’s going to open this Bible, read it, and truly believe it, and then we’re all going to be ashamed.

I get a little fed up with people calling me a utopian. You know what I am? I’m someone who believes that nothing is impossible with God. I plead the same w0rds as the three Hebrews:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
—Daniel 3:16-18

Even if He doesn’t, I’m still believing that He will. Because nothing is impossible for Him. And I simply will not bend my knee to another idol of unbelief. Our churches in America are filled to the rafters with that idol, and I’m sick of encountering it everywhere I look.

This world is filled with far too many people who say_____________ can’t be done. Considering the times we live in, we Christians simply cannot fall in with that crowd. Yet how easy it is to do:

We may believe that God can save a hardened old curmudgeon of a sinner,  yet we resign ourselves to thinking that He can’t heal someone of cancer.

We may believe that God worked in the lives of the patriarchs, yet we resign ourselves to thinking that He can’t work in our lives today.

We may believe that God can lead a nation of people through the parted waters of a sea,  yet we resign ourselves to thinking that He can’t fix a broken socio-economic system.

We may believe that God came in the flesh and fed five thousand with a handful of loaves and fish, yet we resign ourselves to thinking that He may not come through with our daily bread.

I don’t want to hear what God can’t do coming off the lips of anyone who claims to be a Christian.

My God can do anything. Why can’t yours?

35 thoughts on “Driving a Stake Through the Heart of “Christian” Nihilism

  1. *applause* AMEN! Seriously! This is exactly what I was studying tonight!!!

    We were talking about Numbers where Caleb and Jacob believed God… they believed what God said even though they saw the giants in the land! What did God do to the other 10 that didn’t believe? He killed them!

    REFUSING to trust God leads to rebellion. Self will. Have you ever seen such a self willed generation as this? Have you ever seen a generation that has treated God with such contempt?

    Numbers 14:11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?

    There are some very hard places coming… we have to set our face like flint before Him and not look to the left or the right. One little murmur of unbelief, and others will climb up beside you like the Israelites and agree with it and it spreads!

    In our churches we spend more time talking about the giants than GOD! Who are we glorifying in our churches?

    We can do one of two things, either BELIEVE GOD, or turn our tail and run back to our past because of unbelief!

    Will we trust God enough to be obedient to Him in the hard place? Where everyone is crying against us? Where are the Calebs? Where are the Joshuas?

    • Ronni,

      Boy, I’ll tell ya, charismatics and Pentecostals love that “Bad Report” passage! The Pentecostal church I’m in…well, I don’t think a week goes by where I don’t here someone mention that bad report and its consequences.


      • Know what’s funny? It was in a Baptist church. HA! That’s what got me… but its so true!

        That doesn’t mean we don’t sound an alarm when everything is going awry tho….

  2. casey

    I think the problem stems from the fact that we’ve confused possible with EASY. God’s way to possible is quite often through the desert or the firey furnace and we certainly don’t want to take a detour through those places.

    • Casey,

      You’re dead-on correct. I know that many of the societal issues I talk about here are not impossible to fix. Demanding and difficult, yes, but not impossible. There is no Pandora’s box with God.

      At last Wednesday’s discussion, I heard people saying that it was impossible to fight the forces of global capitalism. Really? I guess that means that, as a Christian, I have no ability to make God-directed choices in the purchases I make and the lifestyle I live. That I can do nothing to help restore local economies and spend my money supporting my immediate neighbors. In fact, I was told that you simply can’t beat Wal-Mart, even if that means watching your neighbor who is forced to compete against Wal-Mart go bankrupt.

      Well, yes you can. It’s not easy to do, but with a little resolve, it can be done. The irony here is that in all those things, it’s often what we would term “hardcore liberals” who are successfully waging those wars, while Christians just go blithely along. Seriously, if spending a dollar more keeps my neighbor’s business alive, then maybe I learn to live with less so that he can live—period.

      Or do I have the Gospel mixed up? 😉

      • Normandie

        Good for you, Dan. I see this up close here in Mazatlan. There’s an enterprising Mexican who trucks fruits, vegetables, bread, and tamales to the marina three days a week. And then there’s Walmart a bus ride away (buses cost 50-80 cents). The Mexican has to pay fuel to fetch the veggies and take the time to gather them, but he’s working hard to provide for his family. And I hear folks muttering in English, complaining that they can get the stuff cheaper at Walmart. (Do they imagine he doesn’t understand them as they compound stupidity with rudeness?) I’ve been known to mention that the produce on the truck is fresher and the profit is not going into corporate America, but that mostly garners stares.

        We can make a difference in our own choices; I think we’re called to do just that. And not only in Walmart versus our neighbor’s market.

  3. Jeff H

    “I don’t want to hear what God can’t do coming off the lips of anyone who claims to be a Christian.”

    I don’t either. It’s quite discouraging…

    Thank you Dan for being a beacon of encouragement and reminding us that with God all things are indeed possible!

    • Jeff H,

      You know what I think we’ve lost in the American Church? An excited expectation of what God can do. I think that goes hand-in-hand with this new nihilism.

      J.B. Phillips once wrote a book with the title of Your God Is Too Small. I don’t think any words written better describe the state of the Western Church’s thinking.

      • In that same vein, I wish churches in America opened up their services on Sunday to allow congregants to spend fifteen minutes telling stories of how God was faithful to them in the last week. We’ve never needed that kind of encouragement more. I also believe that time can be spent in prayer for each an every need in the church. I don’t care if it ends up taking two hours, we need that badly.

        • Normandie

          In other countries, church takes all day. We’re upset when the sermon goes beyond its allotted twenty minutes. And what about the admonition: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:16

          It seems to me that we so often want to appear holy–as if we have any holiness in ourselves–that we fail to take the first half of that as I think it was meant: that once forgiven, we are righteous and our prayers become effective. Without the cleansing, our prayers are empty words. Going through this process may may the prayer meeting just a tad too long and windy for most of us.

          • Normandie,

            At my church, the service goes for about 1:40 and I never watch the clock.

            I think one the best things Evangelicals can do is borrow the confession booth from the RCC.

        • Dan,

          I agree with you wholeheartedly on this idea.

          My church has done this every so often. The last time we did, I actually got up and told the congregation that in May 2007, I was laid off from my job. When I was still on the phone with the HR rep going through all the details of my final moments, I just closed my eyes and said: “God, I don’t know what you’re up to, but I will trust you.” I felt peace like never before. Long story short, a few days later I got a large check in the mail from a lawsuit settlement. I had found a new job within a week or so, working from home full time. God came through, big time.

          Since then, we have gone through various trials, all tests of faith. Some I have failed but some I have passed. Your post reminded me of God’s promise. I need to keep that clearly in front of me when the going gets tough.

          Thank you, Dan.

        • Jim N

          Amen! I have been saying this for the last five years in the church that I pastor. We have around one hundred people in attendance each week, and I would love nothing more than the worship time to be overrun with people sharing what God has been doing in their lives. They can talk freely about how bad things are, and how bad things are going to get, however coaxing them to cross into sharing what God is doing is nigh unto impossible. Thankfully, we have had a few people (just recent additions) begin sharing.

          Its our most powerful witness, when we share the story of our journey. And if we could just have people realize that God brought us together as a family, not to fill the pews or the collection plate, or for that matter to make nice music — but to be there for each other, lifting and sharing all things with each other, the changes we would see occur would blow our minds.

          Thanks Dan as always!

  4. Brian

    Um, yeah, sorry, I can’t get with this one Dan.

    After too many years in Charismania, this Nothing is Impossible with God got run into the ground. I don’t remember a Christian telling me what was and wasn’t possible with God. But I can recall some people thinking that some pretty fantastic and unrealistic things were gonna happen, which of course never did.

    If anything I’ve had believers drop this on me as more of a Chin-up-kid. Trying to encourage me in some tough times.

    It seems more like something happened to you and you’re blogging it, what’s the back, story do tell.

    • Normandie

      Brian, I know whereof you speak from all my years among the “promisers.” (And the claimers, shouters, rebukers, and blamers.) But I think they lost the truth of it. All things ARE possible with God, but that doesn’t necessarily mean God’s going to bow to our lists or our demands, making Himself less than His subjects, a puppet. I think we should expect great things from the Lord, but not that He’ll imitate us or do what we ask merely because we ask. We’re to have faith, but not faith that something specific will happen — faith that Jesus is Who He says He is. This implies a trust, standing with Job when he says, “Yet though He slay me, still will I trust Him.”

      I’ve seen the big miracles, but they happened unexpectedly, when we were going about the Father’s work. God is in the miracle business, but not necessarily according to our agenda.

      I think Dan is correct when he says that unless we expect to see God move, we’ll likely see nothing. It’s the hows and the whens that need to be left to Him.

      God always meets my needs, though maybe not immediately and maybe not in the way I expected. He keeps His promises.

      I was hit recently by the truth that in reality I don’t trust the Lord with my children. I fret about them. But isn’t it an absolute certainty that the Lord loves them more than I do and that even in the turmoil of the world, even if disaster comes, He’s big enough to save them for eternity? So, once again, I need to let go and know that even if I don’t see the results, I can believe God for them.

      • Normandie,

        The closer people get to God, the more their thoughts come in line with His and the more His miracles come to pass in their lives because they want what He wants.

    • Brian,

      If any truth I have learned in the Christian faith can be considered a fact of human existence, it’s that anyone burned will run as far away from the fire as possible, even if it means freezing. We love one pole until it fails us, then we run to the other pole.

      What is best for us usually falls into the middle between the two extremes.

  5. Like Jael, you’ve found a good stake, pound it hard, clean through the specter of unbelief and into the ground! A great Ravenhill quote too!

    This is not the time for Christians to be timid. The rich, young rulers are the sort who walk away from Christ empty-handed, those without and credulous walked away healed and blessed. All things ARE possible with God.

      • SJLC

        Our wills *should* be converging towards God’s will, but lots of us are not properly tuned into what God wants, so we ask for all the wrong things and get discouraged when our prayers are thus so ineffective. My question is never whether God can do a particular thing, such as healing someone of “terminal” cancer or renewing the world economy, but whether he wants to…

        In the case of Joshua and Caleb, God had promised them victory over the Canaanites, so it was right for them to expect it. If God told us modern Christians that He was going to give us some specific victory, we would be idiots not to expect it to happen.

        In contrast, I have no idea what He wants to do about modern events, except that He certainly doesn’t want us to participate in the corruption and injustice. Suppose we are the last generation (not saying we are, but we don’t know that we aren’t), then the societal corruption and injustice is going to be allowed to increase until the very end and we will become outcasts — all part of the plan.

        I have no idea what He wants to do about the health or financial situation of any particular person (including myself); it will be whatever is best in the long term, but can easily be what is most painful in the short term. If my parents had listened to my wishes as a child, I would never have gotten any shots or blood tests or teeth pulled or worn braces… of course they didn’t give in, and God doesn’t give in when we ask for the wrong things because we don’t know any better.

        Without enough maturity to hear the Spirit prompting in one direction or another, how can I pray for anything specific with confidence that it is what God wants??

  6. AMEN! I’m so sick of the “idealist” and “utopian” slings and arrows from our own camp. Enough with the friendly fire, pessimists!

    I get this worst at my work. My boss is a Christian. He subscribes to doing business the world’s way, whereas I got my last boss fired for ethics issues. One time, when I called him on something, he told me, “Jesus was a carpenter.” I said so what. He said, “So he had a business to run too. In order for him to stay in business, he had to have done things the world’s way, or he’d never have stayed in business.” Can you believe that? My Lord, unethical because “that’s just the way it is”?

    God spare us.

  7. “For the Christian they should be one and the same,…”

    Right Dan.

    But Christians are guilty of often praying “My will be done”…if they were honest about it.

    I have done it. More than a few times.

  8. “If anything is “just the way it is, then it’s that way because you and I don’t have faith. Period”


    God CAN of course do anything, all things are possible with him. Yet, that it not at all the same thing as a twisted unbiblical idea that God WILL do anything as long as we believe hard enough.
    And people wonder why so many leave the church in hard times, they go through horrible situations and then we tell them it’s their fault for not having enough faith…

    Me having more or less faith does not change the AIDS epidemic in Africa, the divorce rate, corruption in the church, etc. God can change those things if he so desires, but it is not dependent on my feebel human efforts to believe hard enough.

  9. diana

    Dan, it was good for me to read this this morning. I think that the Lord has opened my eyes to the fact that my dear husband is not really saved and that I really need to spend time in prayer for him. It is hard to see in my minds eye how my husband could change and his heart to be softened but it is not impossible with our Lord!
    This was perfect timing to read this post.
    Thanks and Lord bless

  10. Thanks for the encouraging post. I recenly realized that I’ve started to develop a belief that while God can do anything he chooses, I’m afraid he won’t intervene when I need help (at least not in the way I want).

    When I read the Bible I’m struck by the fact that the closer you get to God, the more likely you are to have bad things happen to you. John the Baptist knew Jesus before he was born, yet he was still beheaded. He even got a personal plea to Jesus, and Jesus didn’t “save” him from a beheading.

    If I’m honest with myself, that’s what I’m afraid of. That I’ll move close to God, then be crucified.

    It seems like I have a lot more work to do in wanting to do God’s will isntead of my own.

  11. Doug

    This article has good intentions, but with all due respect to the author, it is also fairly naive. We can’t just will things to happen by practicing our faith or even praying for miracles. When the Bible says all things are possible with God, it is not saying that God will do all things for us sinful human beings, it is saying that God can do as He pleases because the Creation is His and not ours. How dare we think that, just by willing something to happen through our faith, that we can make it happen? That strikes me as very arrogant and not even physically or spiritually possible.

    If that were true, my lifelong medical condition that’s destroyed a lot of my existence would have been gone years ago. I could have just said a prayer and had my problems solved, but sometimes God lets us suffer to bring us closer to Him. When Jesus tells us to ask for anything and it will be given, he doesn’t mean miracles or marriages or cars or things. He means spiritual strength and spiritual edification, but we materialistic people usually read that into that. If anything, Americans are too MUCH like this, not too little. We have a wonderfully independent and individualist system here, and I adore it, but the downside is, we often think that we control God and not the other way around. Sure, have faith and pray for miracles, but realize that it is GOD and not us who can make something happen. Our faith can move mountains, but it is God who chooses who is worthy of being His elect and who is not. Also, “Christian nihilism” generally refers to Christians who view this life as very empty and meaningless, as Solomon pointed out in Ecclesiastes. The definition in this article would seem more fitting for “Christian defeatism.” The two are not the same.

  12. It is not that we think He can’t; it is that we have resigned ourselves peacefully to the fact that, more often than not, He won’t. Yes, he CAN heal someone dying of cancer– but the graveyards are full of people who died of it all the same. Do you think for a moment that none of them had devout believers praying over them?

    God answers all prayer. The answer is often “no.”

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