A Conversation with an Atheist

Daily, we all carry on conversations. Most are mundane. We converse about the weather, local stories in our communities, and often reminisce about yesteryear. Occasionally, we find ourselves immersed in a conversation which captivates our attention, the likes of which will not soon be forgotten. Since I’ve never met a stranger and I’m willing to discuss nearly any issue, I could probably write a book titled, “A Conversation With….”. This past week I had another exchange; not your typical variety of conversation. Apparently, I had hit a nerve with a recent sermon I preached. Although I’m use to people objecting to truth (it is far too common these days), this time the sarcasm and mockery were slightly over the top. Thus my conversation with an atheist.

I won’t record word for word my recent discussion with this particular atheist. It was interesting and surprisingly conducted in a gentlemanly tone. He was very intelligent, nice and engaging. If I’m allowed to confess, I’d call him again and discuss the search for truth, one of life’s most compelling subjects–not to mention such a quest is essential. Instead of the dialogue, I would like to share with you a few of the valuable lessons I learned. With atheism on the rise you may very well find yourself in a similar position. Perhaps your children will confront you with some of the same issues. In either case you should be prepared.

Biblical Knowledge
This was not my first encounter with an atheist. Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more common. Several reasons can be identified for the growth of this “religion.” Yes, you read that correctly, it is a religion – a belief system just like many of the false religions in existence. It is growing more organized and disciplined with each passing year. Perhaps the most surprising element to this movement is their Biblical knowledge. Most have as much, perhaps even more, knowledge of the Bible than the “Christian” on the street. (Please understand I am using the word “Christian” from a secular perspective, not from the correct understanding provided by the teachings of the New Testament.)

I kindly asked this man, “Why are you an atheist?” To which he immediately answered by quoting Scripture. A little ironic, is it not? He started with a famous passage from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Mt. 5:18). The basis of his argument was all the Bible is in effect until the end of time. He then used this as a springboard to argue against the “unethical, cruel and inhumane nature of the God of the Old Testament.” I didn’t ask, but I’m pretty sure he would not have capitalized the word God. At the end of his accusations against God he proposed a question. “Do you believe in the Ten Commandments?” followed by a statement, “All Christians believe in the ten commandments.”

It was then my privilege to explain his misunderstanding on several points. When one forgets to consider the context in which a verse is used a great many mistakes result. Consider the previous verse, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Mt. 5:17). Notice carefully it was “the law, or the prophets” which Jesus came to “fulfil.” Therefore “one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” The anticipated fulfillment is realized in the death of Christ. The harmony and unity of the Bible should never be forgotten. One must consider Colossians 2:14, Hebrews 8 and Ephesians 2:15-16.

As for the Ten Commandments, I offered the following explanation. It is not my belief in the Ten Commandments which needs to be questioned; it is the proper legislative role of the Mosaic Law that needs to be properly discerned. Since I believe the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:21), I certainly believe in the Ten Commandments. They were given by God on Mount Sinai to guide and direct the lives of Israel (Exod. 19-20). The Law was, as Paul writes, “our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Gal. 3:24-25).

It wasn’t the Biblical dialogue that struck me. It was his ability to freely quote Scripture to argue his point. How clever! Attack God using the very words He gave to humanity. The point is clear, as God’s children, we must know the Bible well, in context and harmony, to be able to identify when one is improperly handling the Scripture.

All Fluff No Filling
I love pie. Especially one that is cream filled. However, sometimes it is deceiving, not to mention disappointing. When the meringue or whipped cream is several inches thick, yet the sweet filling couldn’t be measured with a ruler, it is disheartening. Thus goes the argumentation for atheism—it is all fluff no filling.

Listen carefully to rabid attacks against God, His nature, His actions and His Word. At first they seem insurmountable, and if the person is a good speaker, they even sound impressive and intellectual. However, analyze and scrutinize them carefully. They love to attack God based on who He is, what He has done or what He has promised. They are not academically sound, they are accusatory. When you press them on the issues they appeal to emotion instead of intellect. Please don’t let their smooth enticing words discourage you—they are words without substantial evidence behind them.

On the other side, how are our evidences? Are they all fluff and no filling? Or do we respond with precision, reason and logic? He asked me, “Why do you believe?” Then went on to explain he didn’t want any “I just know”, “because I have a feeling in my heart”, or “I once prayed for great aunt Betty and she was healed” type of “nonsense.”

Space and time fail to explain all, however we discussed, at great length the following proofs: Cosmological, Teleological, Moral and Historical. If you are unfamiliar with these, then you need to take the time to understand them. You don’t need to become an expert, but you should have a basic grasp of the basic arguments for God’s existence. Make sure that in your reasoning and arguing for belief in God, you have plenty of filling.

The New Atheism
The New Atheism is a term given to describe the nature of certain militant, modern atheists. As already noted, they rely heavy on emotional appeal instead of hard facts. Have you watched any debates between an atheist and theist lately? The theist typically provides compelling and thought provoking answers while the atheist rants and raves. It is as if these atheists believe that the one who yells the loudest or causes the biggest spectacle is the winner. It is their belief that “religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises” (from Wikipedia on the entry “New Atheism”). Strange as it is, somehow they have forgotten to use “rational argument,” and they are getting away with it!

Frank Turek, an apologist, theist, author and lecturer often proposes the question, “What kind of God don’t you believe in?” The typical response, as recorded in his book Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God To Make Their Case is as follows: “The God the new atheist rejects is not the actual God of the Bible. They reject a caricature of Him. They think the God of the Bible is some kind of superhero, akin to Zeus or Thor–a limited being inside the universe that theists call on to fill the gaps that science can’t explain. He’s also morally arbitrary and can fly off the handle at any moment.” Obviously, such is not the nature of the true God, the One in Whom we place our confidence.

Culture and society have shifted the paradigm on atheism. The illogical attacks used against God carry no weight. The lack of intellectual and scientific logic and reasoning being spewed from the mouth of the new atheists should be brought to everyone’s attention, especially to our children’s attention. Let us always “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15).

 

Article by: Brad Shockley