I’ve Been Talking with Atheists & Agnostics Lately

The last few months I’ve ventured onto some atheist & agnostic forums, and the G+ pages of some espousing these ideas. It’s healthy to think creatively how to answer objections to Christianity and to ask probing questions that will promote thinking that might be out of their box. Some I’ve conversed with are really quite intelligent (I’m often way out of my league) and so the straw man arguments and approaches that are sometimes used don’t cut it. Just a brief rabbit trail… if you are a preacher/teacher, please don’t take the easy route when explaining why atheism or agnosticism are wrong. That is to say, find out what the strongest arguments are for the opposing viewpoint, and address those. You will be doing your listeners a favor, and especially you

It’s pretty difficult to answer all objections to Christianity on a site such as G+ where the format favors shorter replies, not tome-like pontifications. So I tend to shoot pellets through the chink in the other guy’s armor. I don’t have a broad grasp of all things apologetic, so I just bring up a few issues I understand.

For example, why is there something rather than nothing? This is the most basic philosophical problem. The point I stress here is not that I’m right – it’s that my friend at the other lecturne doesn’t have an answer for this most basic dilemma.

Second, I address broadly the atheist’s insistence that they act with civility and in love toward their fellow man. Actually, I don’t take issue with them at all on how they live and what their motives are. The real problem they face is that in a universe that produced life via random chance, there can be no basis to call any act moral or immoral, right or wrong. There is no foundation for moral proclamations.

This doesn’t sit well with some that I’ve debated – but they have no solid answer, because there is none. It’s been interesting to see the clever deflection of the question, and the sometime angry reply that is a thinly veiled smokescreen, as they become aware (or are reminded) their system has a gaping hole. It sometimes helps to invoke Sartre or some other atheist or existentialist who knew precisely the problem and elucidated it more elegantly than I.

One thing is for sure – self control is of the utmost importance, so when I’m called names, all Christians are labeled unfairly, or the obscenities fly, the response is restrained and thoughtful. There are already plenty who call themselves Christians whose primary objective seems to be to ridicule and scorn atheists, and we need to repeatedly draw distinctions between those who call themselves Christians, and those who show they actually are by their actions.

It helps to bear in mind that according to the New Testament, at least the way I read it, all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and there will be eternal consequences for choices made in this present life. We can argue about the exact nature of hell, and discuss degrees of punishment and so forth, but it’s pretty difficult to explain away the clear and forceful language Jesus used when he spoke about the next life, and the two diametrically opposed realities that await all of humanity – heaven or hell.

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4 Responses to I’ve Been Talking with Atheists & Agnostics Lately

  1. chall74440 says:

    Well written article. I would agree with everything you’ve said. Christians should act like Christ in their encounters with others. Christ asked us to win them to Him. We won’t do that being angry and abusive in our conversations. Oh, your fourth paragraph is so true! There isn’t an answer for that nor are there answers for many of the positions of atheism.

  2. arensb says:

    For example, why is there something rather than nothing? [...] my friend at the other lecturn doesn’t have an answer for this most basic dilemma.

    You may have an answer, but that’s only half the story: you also need to show that your answer is correct.
    Imagine a different debate, where the question arises “why does Mars have two moons, while Earth only has one, and Venus doesn’t have any?” One person says, “I don’t know”. The other person says, “Because the magic moon-allocation fairies decided it that way.” Would you think, “The second guy has an answer. So there must be magic moon fairies”?

    all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and there will be eternal consequences for choices made in this present life.

    Is that a threat? “Worship Christ or burn forever”? And you’re okay with this?

    • admin says:

      “Worship Christ or burn forever” is a rather broad brush approach to what I believe is a much more nuanced reality. I don’t think hell will look anything like we think it will. I believe there will be wildly varying degrees of punishment.

      But more to your point about a comfort level with the concept of eternal punishment/hell. No, I’m not okay with this, in the sense that it doesn’t seem fair. However, my belief that God is just outweighs my discomfort level with this concept, and as such I tend to think in the end I will have my eyes opened to know the truth, and see that indeed he is justified in his actions.

      We’re not dealing with some bearded grandpa in a chair up in a big room in the sky. We’re talking (ostensibly) about a spirit being of unthinkable power and knowledge, who created the universe by commanding it to be so.

      As such he is the Sovereign ruler and answers to no one. So if we don’t quite get it on some issues, my thought is that we do well to err on the side of very serious consideration of how he might have revealed himself and truth to humanity, rather than assuming that man is the measure of all things, and that what is fashionable in our western, 21st century way of thinking represents the ultimate in philosophical wisdom.

    • ARENSB,

      You are correct in that ultimately, as a theist and Christian, it’s not enough to say I have the answer – I should have something credible to offer to back it up. However, the central point I was trying to make in this post was not so much that theism has the answers as that atheism has some real difficulties in successfully addressing at least a couple very basic philosophical questions/issues.

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