A friend recently shared with me a warning offered years ago by Serbian Bishop Nikolai of Zica, who saw three great threats to genuine Christian living:
". . . atheists want to shatter the vigil light of your soul. The heretics want to fill the vigil light with water in place of oil. The fainthearted believers grant you the freedom to maintain your vigil light as you wish, but they do not wish to see it lit. Those are the three wicked winds which have attacked your soul in these times. May the Almighty bless you, that you may be blessed and strong."
Nikolai said this years ago, but to me it is just as applicable today. In their tracts and speeches denouncing Christianity, prominent intellectual atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins aren't campaigning simply for space to believe what they want to believe. Their goal is to shatter the faith of Christians. Their thousands of lesser imitators have the same goal---for what else explains the missionary zeal of the atheist? What does he have to sell but unbelief, a great negative, a void where the Christian's vigil light now burns? Why aren't atheists content to let Christians believe what in their eyes is foolishness? Because it isn't enough for them to have the freedom of unbelief; they need to see our faith shattered as well.
Further, today's American Christian is vulnerable not so much to Muslim, Mormon, and New Age heretics as he is to heretics standing before the communion table of Christ, preaching prosperity or racial grievance or perhaps just a newer, better, happier you. Gene Robinson wears a bishop's robe even as he preaches heresy and lives apostasy. Joel Osteen speaks from a Bible even as he fails to root his selected verses in the teaching of the Christian Church. In other words, each offers a semblance of Christian truth, but it is water for the lamp, not oil.
And where are the fainthearted, who would afford us the right to carry our soul's lamps, but who would just as soon we light them only behind closed doors? Where are the people who would suggest it's impolite to talk religion in public, to speak Christ in mixed company, to pray over our meals in restaurants, to utter truth in love even when it might offend? I suppose they are all around us, but I must admit the greatest advocate of fainthearted faith in my own life is me. Atheists and heretics will always exist to prey on our children, but I suspect it's our own faintheartedness that represents the greatest threat to their souls.