Lee Strobel

Strobel light

I was so intrigued by Lee Strobel’s approach to talking to atheists at the Friendly Atheist, and so annoyed by a Facebook friend’s recent somewhat ill thought out Answers in Genesis inspired attack on the morality of atheists, that I decided to ask my atheist friends for advice on how they’d like to be talked to.

Christians, by nature of their belief in God, have an imperative to share the gospel with their atheist friends, and in fact any non-Christian friends. It would be unloving not to. Atheists have a low tolerance for evangelism – but they do tolerate it when they understand the motivation. Or so I have found, and generalised. The problem for atheists is that once you reject the notion of God any further assumptions about how God might or might act move further and further away from that point of distinction. For the Christian it is perfectly rational, because we believe in God, to then believe that he would intervene in things, provide the mechanism for a relationship and raise the dead. We work deductively from that point. The atheist would prefer to work inductively (it seems) from the point of something miraculous (other than our miraculously balanced continued existence) like a visible miracle or visible, physical, answered prayer.

That’s a rather long preamble. I asked my friends, who I will identify by their online nom de plumes (except for Benny) some questions. While there are some obvious problems with some of their answers from a Christian perspective, they answered honestly and gave a pretty good representation of a cross section of atheist thoughts on the matter.

What should the church do better, in your opinions, if it wants to grow?


Push its community spirit more. I think people today would appreciate being part of a social group as much as learning their chosen religion. I think the non-church opinion of churches is that they are becoming less of benefit to the community and more benefit to members and the religion. ie, there is a divide opening.

Mr Paroxysm

That’s an odd question for an atheist/agnostic to answer as they wouldn’t want the church to grow.  I think Ben covered this though.  The good churches do is with community building and support systems.  I think it is important however to keep the religious aspect separate from support groups/charity they provide and instead let people naturally discover those aspects if they wish.  The Salvation Army does this extremely well.

What arguments from Christians do you have the most problems addressing?

Mr Paroxysm
I don’t really find any subject difficult to address.  I suppose when the Christian uses "read the bible" as some kind of proof then you fall into an argument about the legitimacy of the bible and considering all the different theories on it’s authorship, differences in translation, included and omitted texts most of which can not be historically proven from either side and likely never will be (with exception to translation issue, the original text isn’t an issue for debate as far as I’ve ever seen just the different translations can be confounding)

Mr Snuffle

Problem is I don’t find any of it convincing, and when you start getting into prayer/resurrection it all just sounds ridiculous. If you want to understand the way I think about what you say, simply replace the words "Christian God" with "Santa", and then ask yourself which part of the argument you find the most compelling.

I think the meat of the argument you make is the argument for a god, any god. Or the likelihood of God as a starting point.

Assuming for a moment that Christianity is true, how should Christians do better at not annoying non-believers and people from other religions?


Who knows. Toning down the righteousness would be a good start. I think non-Christians are sick of having their views thwarted/not taken seriously because apparently they are morally and ideologically inferior.

Mr Paroxysm

Well your first point is something that I think encapsulates what I was going to say.  Christianity is true… for you.  What Christians need to recognise is that their religion is a personal truth and all other religions are as personally true for other people.  Obviously for themselves Christianity it "True" but they need to recognise that they do not lay claim to any more evidence of truth than any other religion.  You have faith that your religion is true but so does everyone else.  The difference is with the Atheist who sees equality amongst all religions but has no faith in the evidence presented by any.
Christians (as with any other religion) can not expect their personal truth to be impactful to anyone not adhering to their dogma. 

Let there be light

I often feel discouraged when talking to my atheist friends. Not because their arguments are compelling, but because I love them and believe Christianity is true and offers hope.

It’s hard. It’s like talking to a brick wall. But this long quote gives me a fair bit of hope that all is not lost.

“My commitment to atheism essentially came in three steps. The first was when I was in junior high school and began asking Christians uncomfortable questions, like, “How can there be a loving God with so much suffering in the world?” And, “How can a loving God send people to hell?” And, “How can Jesus be the only way to God?” Rather than engage with me, they basically told me to keep my questions to myself. I quickly concluded that the reason they didn’t want to discuss these matters was because there were no good answers from the Christian perspective.

The second step came when I began studying neo-Darwinism in high school. I was particularly struck by Stanley Miller’s 1959 experiment in which he recreated what he thought was the original atmosphere of the primitive Earth, shot electricity through it to simulate lightning, and discovered the creation of some amino acids, the building blocks of life. I naively concluded that Miller had proven that life could have emerged in a purely naturalistic way. To me, that meant God was out of a job!”

That’s Lee Strobel – American author of a number of books of Christian apologetics. He said it in answers to a series of questions from the Friendly Atheist back in January.

You can find them here, here, here, and here. It’s a great example of respectful dialogue between two opposing camps.

And here’s the encouraging rub.

For nearly two years, I investigated science, philosophy, and history. I read literature (both pro and con), quizzed experts, and studied archaeology. On November 8th, 1981, alone in my room, I took a yellow legal pad and began summarizing the evidence I had encountered. In light of the scientific evidence that points toward a Creator and the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, I came to the conclusion that it would have required more faith for me to maintain my atheism than to become a Christian.

Essentially, I realized that to stay an atheist, I would have to believe that nothing produces everything; non-life produces life; randomness produces fine-tuning; chaos produces information; unconsciousness produces consciousness; and non-reason produces reason. Those leaps of faith were simply too big for me to take, especially in light of the affirmative case for God’s existence and Jesus’ resurrection (and, hence, his divinity). In other words, in my assessment the Christian worldview accounted for the totality of the evidence much better than the atheistic worldview.

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