Not too long ago, I put a video up of fellow youth worker Trevor Hamaker and I talking about apologetics and why students need to have a handle on belief basics early. It’s not a surprise that an atheist commented on the video but I refused to argue with him in the comments, but it’s not because I don’t like a great, honest discussion, a debate or because I’m weak in my own faith.
Please notice that I use the word argue not engage. As believers we should always engage with people of all kinds, sharing both our life and the gospel, but I do not argue with internet atheists because I have found many of them aren’t looking to believe.
I did not respond to the atheist’s comment on my Youtube channel, but I will respond to it here offering some commentary and observations.
I‘m not a teenager, but can you defend your religious beliefs? How about one piece of good evidence that your god exists at all? How about one piece of good evidence that even one of the magical/supernatural stories in the Bible actually happened? Your choice.
One good piece of evidence. That’s all he wants. Clearly, none of the evidence he has been introduced to before was sufficient, so why would anything I say make a difference. There are atheists who just want to argue for argument sake or to build there caste for their disbelief, and that’s fine, but they don’t need my help.
Your favorite restaurant is just personal taste. It’s entirely subjective.
My experience with Jesus is subjective. Everyone who has ever encountered Jesus is a subjective experience. There is objective evidence, creation, the resurrection, archaeological finds, the movement of Christianity, etc. are all objective evidence that can be debated, but my experience with Jesus cannot be debated.
I cannot argue someone into faith. Faith is subjective. A lack of belief is also subjective. Not all atheists think alike. Not all atheists feel the need to pull someone else’s faith apart to justify their own unbelief. Neither do I need to convert someone else from their beliefs or unbelief to justify my faith.
Faith is a God thing. God calls, God saves. A supernatural event must occur for faith to be a reality. I’m not talking about parting the seas, I’m talking about the conviction of sin and the revelation of God’s grace. Without that supernatural element of conversion my argument is just a bunch of facts which may stimulate the intellect but will not change the heart.
You might prefer one restaurant, while I might prefer another, and neither of us is right or wrong. But when you make claims about reality, that’s different. Gods either exist or they don’t. Your god either exists or he doesn’t. That’s not about personal preference, but about reality. Christian apologists – and Muslim apologists, too (do you ever listen to them? I do, but they don’t seem to have anything, either) – have lots of experience talking to people who already believe what they’re saying.
I disagree. Not everyone in church is a believer. Sure they believe God may exist, but many do not live like God exists. Faith is more than blind faith. Faith is ongoing and revealing. Faith is always growing, but the starting point is always faith.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Hebrews 11:1-3
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6
Can a stimulating, intellectual conversation lead to faith. Yes, but the faith is the point of transformation. One piece of evidence will not be sufficient. In fact, for many atheists, no amount of evidence will do to change their hearts.
Almost always, that’s because they were taught to believe in that particular religion and that particular god as children. And when you already believe something, you don’t need much convincing. But as an atheist, I’m going to ask you for evidence that your claims are actually true.
Ah, truth. Absolute truth? If there is no absolute truth, then one cannot say there is absolutely no God. Pilate asked, “What is truth” right in front of the man who was The Way, The Truth, and the Life. Evolutionary psychology says we are pre-disposed to believe . I would say we are wired to have a relationship with God but sin has separated us from God and we need faith in Christ to restore that relationship.
I’m not asking for a book. I’m not asking for a mountain of good evidence. I’m certainly not asking for a Gish Gallop of vague claims. I’m going to ask you for one piece of good evidence, just so I can take your religious claims seriously. Why is that always too much to ask? Maybe one piece of good evidence wouldn’t be enough to convince me (in which case, we could continue on to a second piece, if you wish), but if you don’t have even one, you have nothing at all.
Once again. One good piece of evidence would not be enough. I think many argumentative atheists are lazy. I think many investigate the evidence through the lens of believers who do not or cannot answer difficult questions, I which I am the first to say are not taught to do so and are equally too lazy to read books on apologetics or do a deep dive on why they believe what they believe.
I would venture to say this is the key reason we see a ridiculous amount of back and forth banter and bad arguments. Neither party comes to the table prepare or willing to genuinely listen to someone else. Both parties are bad at willing to agree to disagree and are prone to demonizing the other, making them an enemy of their belief or unbelief.
Scripture asks me to be willing to defend the reason for my belief,
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, I Peter 3:15.
Believers must have Jesus as Lord and not just their Savior. There must be a depth of relationship from which to speak otherwise it is just parroting what the preacher/teacher/book said. Besides having a deep, intimate relationship with Jesus I am asked to give a reason for my beliefs. Some of these reasons are objective and others are subjective. Hope, like faith, is an ongoing, and fluctuating, component of human life. But, like faith, hope can be as small as a mustard seed. I have hope in Christ, in his Word and I can’t always explain that. Paul calls it a mystery,
No, we speak of the mysterious and hidden wisdom of God, which He destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it. For if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.… I Corinthians 2:7,8
Surely you have heard about the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. Ephesians 3:3
I can defend my hope, but it’s a little harder to argue a mystery, but like every good mystery there are clues and no amount will suffice to the argumentative atheist who does not wish to believe. They want proof, and God will not give it to them just as Jesus shared in a the parable of the rich man and Lazarus,
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'” Luke 16:31
Are you going to teach teenagers that? If you don’t have even one piece of good evidence to tell me, then what are you going to tell them? Just to fake it? Well, you didn’t actually get to that in this video. I’m sorry, because I know this is important to you, but I find this video kind of funny. You’ve been indoctrinating your children with your particular religion since infancy, and you’re still struggling to keep them believing it once they discover than not everyone thinks the same way you do? What does that tell you? It tells me that you have nothing, but you don’t want to admit that – not even to yourself. Maybe not especially to yourself.
And there it is. “You have nothing”. No amount of evidence will change a man’s heart who start with the gospel you believe in is nothing.
I’m not trying to be insulting. That’s just how I see it. But hey, if I’m wrong, here’s where you can prove that. I’m right here. How about one piece of good evidence that your god actually exists or one piece of good evidence that any of the magical/supernatural stories in the Bible actually happened? Your choice. PS. You might want to talk to an atheist just to see what kinds of questions your kids will hear. If you’re like most Christians, you don’t know many atheists. How can you prepare them to defend your faith if you don’t know what they’ll have to defend it from?
This is where we as believers must discern the moment. We are often too quick to consider the person on the other side of the screen as our enemy. This man is not my enemy. I don’t know his background, how he came to being an atheist, etc, and he gets this point right,
“You might want to talk to an atheist just to see what kinds of questions your kids will hear. If you’re like most Christians, you don’t know many atheists. How can you prepare them to defend your faith if you don’t know what they’ll have to defend it from?
If you are a Christian, I implore you to take what I’ve shared and ask yourself if you can defend the hope that is within you. Next, I would ask, “Do you love people who do not believe or do you see them as your enemy?” The apostle Paul said,
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13
I don’t believe we can argue people into a relationship with God, but I do believe we can and should let love, not just intellect, be our best example of a loving God who’s changed our lives.
Here’s a great video from Braxton Hunter that gives a breakdown of why atheists debate.