by Doy Moyer
According to James Sire, apatheism (a combo of “apathy” and “theism”), “a term coined in 1972 by sociologist Stuart D. Johnson, holds that whether God/gods exist is simply an irrelevant question. (Why should I care whether God exists or not? The answer to the question has no practical relevance to my life.)” (The Universe Next Door, p. 58).
Apathy may well be the last straw. There’s nothing we can do with “I don’t care.” I would rather an atheist argue strongly with me than shrug with an off-putting “whatever.” “I don’t care” is the last indicator of a seared conscience. But it does mirror the “pitiless indifference” at the bottom of Dawkins’ godless universe. If there is nothing at the bottom of the universe that cares, why should we? And where does “care” come from at all?
Yet apathy happens among God’s people who know that, of all people, they should care the most.
Once we become apathetic, then for all practical purposes we are apatheistic as well, for we are acting as if we don’t care whether God exists. Or if we would say that God exists, we may assume that He, like us, does not really care about what we do. The psalmist speaks of this attitude among the wicked: “The LORD does not see, nor does the God of Jacob pay heed” (Psa 94:7). It is a catastrophic failure to assume that God does not see or does not care about what we do.
There is a reason the Lord told a lukewarm church, “Be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19). We fall into this pattern of thinking we are just fine, so we need nothing, particularly when it comes to spiritual growth. That failure to pay attention to our growth is fatal. We then leave what is supposed to be our first love and we think it does not matter.
I cannot make an apathetic person care, but I do pray that there is something deeper within our consciences that would spark some level of concern for what we are and where we are going. Do not let any form of apatheism take hold, for it can do no good for anyone.