Witnessing to atheists

Discussion in 'Evangelism, Missions and the Persecuted Church' started by cih1355, Dec 27, 2007.

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  1. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    Suppose you were witnessing to an atheist and you shared with him Romans 1:18-32. If he insists that he does not know God, that he is not suppressing any truth, and that there are many reasons for doubting God's existence, then what do you say to him? Do you present the transcendental argument?
  2. Answerman

    Answerman Puritan Board Sophomore

    First of all, I wouldn't expect that someone that was suppressing the truth would admit to it. Greg Bahnsen has done an excellent job as summarizing what you should look for as a believer when talking with unbelievers. You should look for arbitrariness (good philosophers are not allowed to be arbitrary), inconsistencies (conflicting beliefs), un-argued philosophical bias (unproven truth claims) and whether or not their beliefs provide the preconditions of intelligibility (do their beliefs “make sense” of laws of logic, science, morality…). You will need to ask the right kinds of questions to flesh these things out of his beliefs until he gives you enough rope to hang him with.

    Here is one line of questioning that you might use.

    Atheist: God does not exist.
    Christian: Good then I can just pull out a gun and shoot you to get rid of people like you.
    Atheist: You can’t do that, that would be wrong.
    Christian: What do you mean by wrong, I would not be breaking any physical laws.
    Atheist: You would be breaking a moral law.
    Christian: Do moral laws exist, I have never seen a moral law, prove to me that moral laws exist and I will not shoot you.
    Atheist: I can’t do that, but if you kill me you might go to jail and you would not like that would you.
    Christian: Would if I told you that the pleasure that I would get out of killing you would be worth 1,000 years in prison. Besides I hear the food is excellent and the gyms are well equipped.
    Atheist: You are sick!
    Christian: You told me that “God doesn’t exist” yet you appeal to laws that only make sense if he did exist. You couldn’t prove to me that moral laws exist, yet you expect me to believe in them, and you call me sick? I am afraid that it is you who are sick my friend and I can give you the cure if you only admit that you are suppressing this truth.

    Now this might be a little over-the-top unless you are really good friends with him. I have actually used similar conversations with atheists that I am well acquainted with, but you might want to be more subtle with an atheist that you don’t know very well. But these are the kinds leading questions that you want to use and the kinds of things that you want to look for. If you practice, you will start to see these things more clearly and more often.

    Bahnsen has a couple of series of lectures that are designed to prepare you for these kinds of encounters. You may purchase them at American Vision.
    Defending the Christian Worldview Against All Opposition Series One: Weapons of Our Spiritual Warfare (12-CD set)
    Defending the Christian Worldview Against All Opposition Series Two: Destroying All Speculations (10-CD set)

    Or you may also find the “Destroying all speculations” set in MP3 as the lecture series called “Practical Apologetics” at Covenant Media Foundation

    Practical Apologetics 10 Lectures by Bahnsen

    Other lecture series that you might find helpful at the same website:

    Does Morality and Ethics Depend on God? 1 Lecture by Bahnsen
    What? Me Defend the Faith? 4 Lectures by Bahnsen
    Transcendental Arguments 16 Lectures by Bahnsen/Butler
    Faith, Facts & False Worldviews 10 Lectures by Bahnsen
    The Apologetic Implications of Self-Deception 2 Lectures by Bahnsen
    Taking it To the Streets 8 Lectures by Bahnsen
    Apologetics In the Workplace 3 Lectures by Bahnsen
    Reasoning With Unbelievers 3 Lectures by Bahnsen
    Is Evolution Scientific? 2 Lecture Set by Bahnsen
    Challenge to Unbelief 6 Lessons by Bahnsen
    College Preparation in Apologetics 7 Lectures by Bahnsen

    And when you graduate from these try these lectures:

    Mid-Level Course in Apologetics 18 Lectures by Bahnsen
    Seminary Course in Apologetics 30 Lecture Set by Bahnsen
  3. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Just tell him you are an "a-atheist" and do not believe in atheists, thus shifting the burden of proof to him.
  4. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    Thank you for posting all of those videos. I watched all of them and they were helpful.
  5. Thomas2007

    Thomas2007 Puritan Board Sophomore

    My approach to atheists has been somewhat successful, for my anyway. I can't say I've won any of them to the Lord as of yet, unfortunately, but I have successfully disarmed their arguments on several occassions.

    First, though, I've generally found that the true committed atheist is robustly religious and very knowledgeable, they've generally studied various religions in depth. There are some that are mean and nasty, and others that are highly intelligent and like to put on intellectual airs as if they have the high ground, I deal better with the latter than the former.

    Second, I attempt to take away the high ground and show them that the term "atheist" was first applied to Christians in Rome, who denied the deity of Caesar and the genius of Rome. Hence, they can't stand on Christian ground and claim to be an "atheist," neither will I let him maintain exclusive use of the word. How hard is it, after all, to not believe in a God you cannot prove exists? True atheism looks a self claimed deity in the face and denies his claim of deity.

    Hence, this step is critical because it is necessary to demonstrate that his claim of atheism is standing upon Christian ground denying the Christian God, thus he is not an "atheist," he is merely not a monotheist. So, don't mistake the modern trend of a denial of monotheism as a claim of "atheism."

    I then try to turn the tables on them and show them that modern statism is a political religion and has resurrected the old divine pagan state concept whereby the atheist is standing on Christian ground denying the existence of the Creator, not deity. Then demonstrate that a lawmaker is a god to it's subjects. I then show them that I believe in the Creator God and explain the Creator/creature distinction and then express my atheism toward the modern divine pagan state and it's claim of deity.

    Next, I generally try to take it another step and explain the Gospel, that its very foundation is atheism in denying the deity of yourself, whereby you must look in the mirror and deny that he who is looking back is a god.

    In reality a man cannot deny the Creator exists since He created all that is, all he can do is suppress that truth and transfer the meaning of it someplace else, ascribing deity to himself or the State and it's institutions, or concealing a pantheism or animism in his claim of atheism.

    Anyway, that is how I approach it.


  6. caddy

    caddy Puritan Board Senior

    My humble advice. Pray that God would cultivate in you a sincere desire to befriend those you spare with. Do not neglect to Pray for them diligently. Battles of this type are not won by our persuasive arguments but by God's drawing. He does the actual work not us. We can only read and try to be as prepared as possible. Read those already suggested and as widely as possible to show yourself approved. Always Be Ready, to steal the title of one of Bahnsen's best works in this area. Always understand that we are simply trying to reflect and represent His glory, not our persuasiveness. How better can we do this than by asking the Lord to bless our study and speech? I think we need to constantly examine ourselves. We always need to ask ourselves Do I really care about this person and his eternity or am I just trying to win an argument. I have been a member of a couple of forums for years. I have only seen moderate signs of success talking with a whole host of unbelieving individuals. The internet is not conducive, in my opinion, for exhibiting the truest forms of sincerity. On the other hand debating online allows your to collect your thoughts and arguments and present and choose your words wisely and carefully. I know I would present pretty poorly in person. Online debating has its advantages, but most of the time all we see is a jumbled set of words streaming across online. It is easy to talk past each other. Learn and pray that God would make you a good listener. Understand what is being said and asked at all times. Many who have already responded, no doubt, are good online and in person. Not everyone is a true "Answerman" or a Spear Dane. And certainly not everyone is a Paul Manata! If you have studied the likes of Bahnsen, White, Kreeft, Piper, Augustine, Pascal, Frame, and Sproul I would say that is a start...but all the wisdom and persuasion in the world won't be enough if God does not bless your efforts. Look at Paul's example with Agrippa. Look at the Rich young ruler. Sometimes we must simply understand that God has not willed for certain individuals to come to Him. Good thing for us that we don't know these things.

    Ask yourself when was the last time you shed tears for some ** atheist ** you talked to. Ask yourself do you care enough about him ( or her ) to cultivate a friendship? Do those you talk to understand your concern and sense it deeply? Those things usually take time. Trust is not built quickly. Always pray that the Lord would give you discernement in these areas and that He would help you to initiate and bring to a halt those opportunities as He wills, not as you will.

    All I know is that many of our efforts won't be realized this side of heaven.

  7. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    Not sure what the "transcendental argument" is, but this is what I'd do:

    First, I would prove to him that he cannot be an athiest, for an athiest cannot logically exist. Do this by the "drawing the circle" argument, where the circle represents the amount of truth he knows. Outside of the circle is all other truth that he does not know. Therefore, God can logically exist outside of his circle of knowledge.

    Second, I personally wouldn't enter the argument of whether or not he is surpressing the truth. I think those verses reveal knowledge that is meant for believers, so that we understand why people are like that. But, within themselves, they are most likely very much blinded to the fact that they are doing this. The truth is, they do not have ears to hear or eyes to see, and, along with that, Satan blinds their eyes even further and distorts the gospel to their perception.

    I would try to discover what they do hold as truths, and try to get a foothold in these areas to present God and Christ in these contexts. Such as, their understanding of the laws of nature being firmly set and ordered (like gravity, tilt of earth, proper distance to the sun for life), or their acceptance of certain morals and rejection of others, their belief that they fall short of some standard of morality within their own selves or that they are not perfect. Also, I would try to show them that it makes more logical sense to believe in God then it does to not believe in him. Along with that, the historical facts behind the reality of Christ 2,000 years ago and of his resurrection. Also, I would try to keep in mind that they will never be able to rationalize their way to God, and that apologetics will not get them there ultimately. It will boil down to them needing faith as their foundation, not science or logic or reason in and of itself. They are entirely dead in trespasses and sins, all of their faculties are corrupt and depraved, and they need to be born again, as you well know. Above all, pray for the Spirit to accompany your ministry of the word.

    Last edited: Dec 30, 2007
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