An apologetic for reaching atheists with the free offer of the gospel

Discussion in 'Defending the Faith' started by Ben Mordecai, Jul 15, 2018.

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  1. Ben Mordecai

    Ben Mordecai Puritan Board Freshman

    I'd like some feedback on the following approach.

    The evangelist begins with some basic law/gospel about how our sins make us worthy of condemnation and that the only salvation is found by trust in Jesus who died on the cross so that whoever believes in him will have eternal life and the warning that those who reject the free offer will suffer forever in Hell.

    The atheist objects that Hell is tyrannical and that if it existed it would make God into a monster.

    The evangelist responds that while it is true that justice requires punishment for every evil deed, it is also true that every pleasure and pleasant thing comes from a gift of the Lord. So any person who rejects God also rejects all of his good gifts. In a certain sense, the person who goes to Hell gets exactly what he wanted which is alienation from God, but he is also alienated from all his benefits.

    The atheist disagrees and when pressed says that even though he does not believe in God, his life right now is pretty good and something that he is fairly happy with. He doesn't feel like there is a void in his life that needs to be filled by God to make him happy.

    The evangelist responds that God loves the atheist so much that even if he never repents and remains an unbeliever and enemy of God forever that he still gives him so many gifts in this life: air to breathe, food to eat, a career, a family, air conditioning, health, and all kinds of luxuries. All these things God gives to people who are his enemies because of the general love he has for them and that there is a great danger in presuming that these general gifts will remain forever when the recipient hates the giver. God actually promises that after death there will be total alienation that removes even the most general and slightest of gifts to the point that there is absolutely nothing good that they have since they rejected the giver. The atheist has mistaken God's kindness towards him as evidence that rejection of God will work out for him, when God promises it will not.

    Any thoughts on this argument?
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    The wrathful presence of God is what makes hell hell to the sinner. God is very present in hell. I am not in favor of Tim Keller's approach in saying that somehow the atheist wants the absence of God and so God gives it to them at the end of life in hell.

    Usually with atheists I tell them that if atheism is true than the kindest person in the world who gives to the poor suffers the same fate as Stalin in the grave. Death comes to all and there is no punishment or reward. But the human heart cries out for justice and so the evil men in this world who live and die in luxury and wealth often live and die so much better. Justice is not done in atheism.

    Thus hell is a good thing. It is desired. As the old revivalist said, if there wasn't a hell, I'd pitch in 10 bucks to help get one started.
  3. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    A few thoughts that may help tighten up the above follow.

    The things (sunshine, air, rain, provisions, protections, etc.) you account to God's love for the all mankind are but witnesses of God's goodness (e.g., Psalm 17, Luke 16:35, and Heb. 11:20 wherein Esau received temporal blessings)—temporal mercies and favors that do not fail to accomplish the purpose for which He gives His blessings—not God's goodness in itself (a se), else the non-believer now claims God can change or that God is somehow predisposed to desire the salvation of the reprobate.

    God's common love and goodness is demonstrated in His act of creation of all mankind, reprobate and elect alike. God loves His creation. God hates and condemns nothing in man, except that which is contrary to his justice (see Calvin, A Treatise on the Eternal Predestination of God, 72-73).

    To say that in Hell God removes "gifts" ignores the reprobate's partaking of God's goodness in their partaking of creation. In Hell they will still live, move, and have their being in God.

    I find no attitudes or dispositions related to "God loves the atheist so much" in God apart from His volitional will. There is no variableness, neither shadow of turning with God. The Gospel should not be considered something like a common grace, versus its true meaning as an administration of the covenant of grace, special grace delivered by the particular providence of God to gather sinners to Himself.

    Samuel Rutherford, Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself (1803), p. 550:

    There is a second love and mercy in God, by which he loves all men and angels, yea, even his enemies; makes the sun to shine on the unjust man, as well as the just, and causeth dew and rain to fall on the orchard and fields of the bloody and deceitful man, whom the Lord abhors; as Christ teacheth us, Mat. 5:43, 44, 45, 46,47, 48. Nor doth God miscarry in this love; he desires the eternal being of damned angels and men; he sends the gospel to many reprobates, and invites them to repentance, and, with longanimity and forbearance, suffereth pieces of froward dust to fill the measure of their iniquity; yet does not the Lord's general love fall short of what he willeth to them.​
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