So should we use apologetics, that is the defense of Christianity, with an atheist? Well let me ask you this question, similar to what our new friend Mrs. J asks in the book Unexpected Journey by Thom Rainer. Did you learn about apologetics before you acquired faith and was it apologetics that caused you to have faith?
No and no, right?
You acquired this knowledge after you had faith, correct? You started using arguments about intelligent design and the historical accuracy of Scripture after you got saved, right?
So then why are we using these tactics with atheists? It’s because we get drawn into an argument with them and want to win, don’t we? Of course it is, just another sign of how far we have to go.
We must remember the atheist’s attitude towards aletheia truth. The Bible tells us:
“No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity.” (Isaiah 59:4)
The Prophet Isaiah is speaking of those separated from God, the lost, including atheists. Did you believe in aletheia truth before you got saved, much less plead for it? Of course not.
Now, before you think I’m being too hard on those who use apologetics to witness to atheists, understand that I was a huge proponent of this method before reading Dr. Rainer’s book. I still like apologetics because I love debate and confrontation, but it is almost always an ineffective weapon against atheist. Mrs. J explains why:
Look, I used to destroy apologetic arguments when I debated Christians. Most atheists have read all the same apologetics literature as Christians, if not a whole lot more. They are prepared for about anything you can throw at them. (p. 72)
Dang, no fair! They got our battle plan! Satan never plays fair. Let me ask you a sidebar question. Who do you think knows Scripture better, you or Satan? Darn Bro Dave, I guess I just have to stop trying to witness to atheists. You just invalidated my arguments I use. That’s not the point and as Mrs. J says, most atheists and Christians leave a debate thinking they won. And if the Christian wins the debate but doesn’t win the atheist to Christ, did the Christian actually win?
How do we approach the atheist who does not believe in God then? I can almost feel your desperation out there; I know, I’ve experienced it and still do sometimes. Go back to yourself; what was the one thing that changed in you before you got saved? What was the one thing that had to be pierced before you were ready to receive Christ? That’s right, your heart.
Before I could accept Jesus Christ for Who He is, I had to believe in Him. I believed in the historical Jesus; I believed in the Jesus I was taught in catechism, but I never surrendered to Christ because He was not the Jesus of the Bible, not in my heart at least. Until I finally searched for the aletheia truth, my heart was incapable of accepting Christ. Remember this?
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
Yes? But do you remember this?
“I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:10)
No? That’s the problem with learning Scripture from refrigerator magnets and daily power verses; they are never in context.
I promise you that I doubt that you or I could ever intellectually convince an atheist to become a Christian. Mrs. J confirms this:
…my experience tells me that a change of heart must precede any intellectual receptivity to Christian arguments. No amount of debates could have convinced me that God or Christ is real. What I discovered was an intellectual riddle that couldn’t be solved by the logical mind. It had to be solved by the intuitive heart. (pgs. 72-3)
It is imperative that we not give up on our atheist friend, relative, associate or neighbor, but we must understand what we are up against and what they are facing. King Solomon mused:
“Then I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of holiness, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done. This also is vanity. Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God.” (Ecclesiastes 8:10-13)
Bro Dave, I understand all of this, but you still have not shown me how to witness to an atheist! How do I share the gospel with someone who does not believe in God? I know, but you needed to learn all of this before you do. Do you see this now? I am trying to save you time and trouble, the type I’ve experienced.
So here is my promise, the Lord willing. Beginning today and through this weekend I want you to pray for the atheist in your life to whom you want to witness. Pray that God would begin to break through that hardened heart. But pray also for yourself. Pray that God would give you patience and unconditional love towards this person. Pray that no matter how long it takes you will not give up. Pray that no matter how mean he or she is to you, you will still love them. And I will be praying for you. And then on Monday we will begin looking specifically at how to share the gospel with an atheist.
I’ll give you a hint though; it won’t be by any of our clever arguments. As Mrs. J said, this problem is only solved by the intuitive heart. Pray also that you never forget that.
My beloved readers, have a very blessed weekend and please remember to go to church on Sunday.
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Copyright © 2011 David Jeffers
Aletheia, Apologetics, atheism, Bible, Christian Activism, Christianity, Evangelism, Faith, Forgiveness, Grace, Guilt, Hell, Holy Spirit, Honesty, Mercy, Morality, praise, Prayer, Revival, Sin, Truth, Wisdom, worship