If you look at the comments on almost any of our social media posts, you’ll almost always see at least a few comments by various atheists with random critiques of the Christian faith. Some of those comments we respond to and some we do not. We diligently monitor all social channels so it’s never that we missed one. Instead, it’s because we follow a basic principle that we’ll discuss in this article. It’s important that you know the ins and outs of how to respond when an atheist questions you.
The first thing to understand about atheism is that it is a positive truth claim. Don’t be thrown off by the world “positive” there, obviously since atheism is untrue it is indeed a negative thing. The phrase “positive truth claim” is the recognition that atheism properly defined is not a lack of belief. Atheists will often characterize atheism as simply the lack of a belief in God. However, that is not what atheism actually is. Atheism is not a lack of belief in something. Someone who has no beliefs regarding God would simply be a seeker (not even agnostic, for reasons we’ll discuss in a future blog post). Instead, atheism is the assertion that there is no God. This assertion/belief should be just as open to challenge and skepticism as any other positive truth claim.
When an atheist begins to critique the Christian faith, it is important to not only respond to those objections, but you should also challenge their assertion that there is no God. Their beliefs should be just as open to scrutiny as ours.
Because atheism asserts that there is no divine, it is by definition a naturalistic worldview. Therefore, the terms atheism and naturalism are interchangeable. Naturalism/atheism is relatively easy to refute because of the existence of matter, space, time and energy. If the origin of the universe were purely natural, then matter, space, time and energy have either existed forever or they came into existence without causation. Both of these explanations are not only impossible to test, but even further they disagree with the actual observable science that does exist.
That is what is most ironic about atheism and naturalism as a worldview. In order to believe it whole heartedly, one must believe by truly blind faith. Even worse than blind faith (because in fairness no one can scientifically test/falsify the origins of the universe) atheism/naturalism goes AGAINST the observable science on the subject. This is ironic because the typical critique of Christians by atheists is that we are unscientific and just adhering to “blind faith”- a truly classic “pot calling the kettle black” scenario.
The reality is that Scripture does tell us to be ready to give a defense of the faith when we’re questioned (1 Peter 3:15). Christianity is not a belief system that is opposed to tough questions. In fact, as Christians we are to be fully committed to the truth, and that commitment mandates that we ask those tough questions. We should know the history of how we got the Bible and why we believe it to be God’s Word. We should be familiar enough with Scripture to be able to figure out the context and meaning of some of the challenging verses.
There’s really only a few categories of objections that are posed by atheists. These objections have been so thoroughly and repeatedly answered by Christians over the past that the answers are easily found within literally thousands of different sources. If an atheist were simply committed to “truth”, then all he/she would have to do would be to look at the Christians sources on these topics. The atheist however would say that they would never look at “Christian” sources because they are biased. Now, as you may have already realized, this is an almost laughable error of reason given the fact that the atheist has no problem looking at resources that are biased towards atheism.
Objection Category 1: The world (and often life in general) stinks and so therefore a good God couldn’t have created it.
If you think about it, this objection really isn’t an objection to Christianity at all. The Bible makes it absolutely clear that we live in a fallen world where bad things happen all the time. Literally the first 3 chapters of the book make it clear that a good God created a good universe, and then that universe was corrupted and ruined by the introduction of sin. If life were wonderful and the world perfect, then that would be an objection to Christianity. It is, however, not perfect.
This objection is sometimes stated glibly and sometimes it’s tied to a personal experience. Respond to the objection differently based on how the objection is presented. In other words, sometimes the objection sounds like this: “I don’t believe in God because XYZ horrible thing happened to me/someone I love, and I know a good God wouldn’t have allowed that.” If this is the form that the objection is presented, then respond with a loving and hearing heart rather than purely academically.
Objection Category 2: The Bible says XYZ troublesome thing and therefore the God of the Bible is not good.
When you get this objection, it’s a clear sign that you’re dealing with someone that has been reading atheistic literature (or at least binge-watching atheistic apologists’ YouTube videos). The verses used for this type of objection are pulled out of context, twisted entirely or simply not understood. For example, sometimes a verse is pulled from the case-law section of the Old Testament without an understanding that those sections are for a specific nation that was provided with a list of specific court precedents so that they could rule their ancient nation. Other times, they will point to the warring that occurred as God reigned as King of a specific nation and say that it’s evil. Still other times, they will point out something horrible that was simply recorded as history in the Bible (the Bible is very quick to record the sins of even the great humans of the faith such as Noah, Abraham, David, etc.).
Objection Category 3: Science has disproven the Bible (or at least done away with the need of Him).
This objection is quite an affront to science as a discipline. It’s also flatly untrue. I typically ask “which science has done so.” The scientific disciplines of astronomy and archeology affirm the Bible. Oceanography affirms the Bible. The science of textual criticism absolutely affirms the Bible and the reliability of the New Testament. The sciences of geology, biology, microbiology, psychology, etc. are all in agreement with the Bible in observational science (although some theories therein are at odds).
Science itself, as a discipline, was developed by Christians (specifically the Puritans) and is based upon their understanding of a consistent and orderly universe created by God.
So, when do you respond and when do you not? Again, the Christian faith has historically been one that welcomes challenges and critiques. When John the Baptist was imprisoned and began to have questions about whether or not Jesus was indeed the Messiah, Our Lord did not rebuke the messengers that asked. Instead, He lovingly told them to “report what they have seen”. The absolute Truth affirms the Bible and Christianity, and anyone that earnestly seeks after such knowledge will find it.
At the same time, we are told not to cast our pearls before swine, and we’re told not to answer a fool according to his own folly. So, how do you reconcile those things? Our principle is simple as a ministry. Our goal is to answer questions that people may have. So, if someone posts an objection or a question, we respond. However, if that person ignores the answer and/or posts the same or similar objection more than once, then we don’t waste any more time.
We do however, as you should, pray for the lost at all times.We pray in earnest that all those that interact with our ministry, at any level, come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.