It has been through my experience that I have learned that we as Christians should be on the look out and not overlook nor underestimate dangers and pit falls when debating atheists on the issue of religion. First let me list things that you will encounter and then I will try and give a few suggestions on how to avoid getting sucked in.
Often atheists recite the same old dogma that is used by Atheists around the world, therefore learning a few simple answers and with a little more discipline to research your position further, you will be able to successfully do the work that you are called to do. Sometimes you may face bombardment by cynics for what you believe in but this is not at all bad for you. You will be forced to answer questions that are linked to many Atheists databases. This research will serve you well and I hope that those who have come to visit my blog will start seeing these questions for what they are.
Here are the pitfalls and hopefully some useful tips on how to overcome them:
- Outright lies will be stated as if it were fact. Sometimes people will think that if they show confidence in what they are saying, anything will pass and be accepted as being correct. Check and question what is being proposed; don’t just accept it.
- Half truths but spun to look as if they are true which is exactly what we see with the first clash between the devil and God’s creation in the garden of Eden when the devil tells a lie to Eve about her not dying but says instead she will become like God. Indeed, that is what happened when she had her eyes opened which enabled her to understand good and evil, but spiritual death was exactly what separated humanity from then on from our creator God. Many statistics that are peddled around are much distorted and only show a small proportion of the selective population. I call this manipulation of data, not a search for the truth.
- Bombarding you with many questions in order to win an argument based on volume rather than the actual argument. Stop them. You have every right to answer one question at a time. Do ignore repeated questions as they only serve to aggravate and are a deliberate attempt to confuse you
- An Atheist may decide to take only a small part of your answer and focus on that rather than on the whole picture. Point out the lack of logic which usually brings them back as they tend to think of themselves to be more logically minded than Christians. However, do expect that some will continue regardless. As long as this is clear, the rest of the audience can judge for themselves.
- Unfair questions: They will formulate questions such as “when did you stop beating your wife” and then expect you to answer it. You could not possibly answer those satisfactorily with such twisted arguments. Explain that the formulation of their question is both unfair and incorrect. When Christians get accused for murdering doctors in the abortion clinic, make sure that they don’t confuse a small minority with the vast majority. Atheists can’t be baled for someone else’s murder simply because both he and the murdered both believe in self defence. So faith and deeds are two separate things not to mention that statistically atheism is significantly ahead with the murdering and oppression. Don’t be shy to mention it but the final point is that it is human nature and not God who causes us to commit crimes.
- Don’t come unprepared. There are well meaning Christians who will simply go like lambs to the slaughter, not knowing what to expect. When information is passed as correct, check the sources. If you are using a blog to communicate, allow yourself time to do your research before you start answering any questions. If any information give to you comes from the “Jesus seminary” you have good reason to treat it as suspect. There are many liberal theologians that disagree on a fair many issues with this group of “scholars” which incidentally also includes journalists besides far left theologians.
- Look how questions are constructed as these are often used to confuse you and misdirect you. Don’t be sidetracked, though sometimes playing along can be beneficial to other readers who will learn from the game that is being played.
- Don’t fall for their appeal to your great reasoning and their initial flattery. They will first like to get you to admire them and don’t be confused if you see them admiring your logic, so every time you think about disagreeing with them you will think I don’t want to lose their respect. Think 1Corinthians 1:18 For the message about Christ’s death on the cross is nonsense to those who are being lost; but for us who are being saved it is God’s power. And Vs 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom did not know God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.
- Use logic and reason, but make it clear that faith is an integral part of all we know. Even science is based on the good faith that any previous research undertaken by other scientists is accurate. Our understanding that we build hypostases upon another theory will help a long way in removing any notion that logic and rationality doesn’t include faith.
- Don’t fall for scientism and the belief that we must believe science and science has all the answers. Even science itself does not state such nonsense. Note that we still have such a limited understanding about so many things. I think it was Einstein who used to say that our current knowledge is probably less than 1% of all that is to be known.
- Don’t fall under peer pressure, think for yourself and do make good use of the Bible. Often this will be the very first attack you may face. Get to know this subject well. You may be accused of holding certain views that they may have heard elsewhere but it is that same old game “lump all Christians in the same basket”.
- Note that the devil wants to take God’s word from you, so when people complain that you use too much Bible, defend the Bible. Whatever you do, please, don’t stop using it in order to please them.
- When apparent inconsistencies in the Bible are quoted, and you will find that many of those are used by Muslims, don’t despair. There are plenty of places you can go to find solid answers. Often, all you need to do is refer to the context of the disputed text. On top of that you can make good use of the free software that has plenty of good FREE commentaries. I have advertised two such free software like E-sword here: https://defendtheword.wordpress.com/2009/09/07/free-bible-software-e-sward/ and you will find the Online Bible yet another excellent software here:
- Check and broaden your answers and sources. If you limit yourself only to what Josh McDowell is saying you will only be able to answer a certain type of question. Don’t get me wrong, I really like much of what he writes.
- Don’t get confused by science talk. Often atheists strive to show how intelligent they are but they go in the same circles and use the same terminology, visit the same blogs and read the same books. Get accustomed to their lingo and learn what they mean. Once they are understood you will realise that there is nothing to be afraid of. So when next time they attempt to baffle you with science, surprise them by actually understanding what they are saying and get them to think hard. They only look for soft targets that they assume they will find easy to defeat in their worldly wisdom.
- Acknowledge when you are wrong. There is nothing worse then continuing despite knowing that maybe a reference that you used may have been incorrect. However, look at the big picture. You can use that to point out that Christians can distinguish between right and wrong. Correcting yourself will remove any illusion that non Christians may have about Christian self delusion.
- Be prepared for abuse. Don’t worry as this is to be expected. You can’t expect that you will get out of it without some hurt pride. After all Jesus did say that if they persecuted me they will also persecute you but also note that it specifically says “Blessed are those who are persecuted for my name’s sake” so think of it as being in a well paid job that will pay up one day.
- Spend time praying. This is an essential part of your armour. If you call yourself a Christian this is what we are commanded to do. Pray without ceasing, pray for those who persecute you and don’t give up.
- Don’t be aggressive. Ask someone to look over your answers if you are like me. I get my wife to moderate my comments as she is far more diplomatic than I am. Make sure that we return kindness for abuse, but don’t let them walk all over you. Know when to say no, and point out when they are being bullies and deliberately seeking to do you evil.
- Check up on subjects that you are not sure of any more: This is very common to all of us as sometimes due to the passing of time you may forget some of the answers that once you may have known. There is no harm in having some kind of reference library. After all, this is precisely what some atheists use. Make sure that these are regularly updated with the latest information; don’t be lazy and when you find something let others know about it.
- Don’t pretend that you know all the answers: Nobody can do that. If you are doing this through blogging you will have time to do your research. If you are faced with a public discussion make it known that you will be willing to find out possible answers. However, make sure that your fundamentals are well known.
About personal attacks: I have had a few people write some really disgusting stuff about me and to me. I have also had people attempt to get me to give them my password and logon ID in order for them to gain access to my blog pretending to be wordpress.com administrators. So there are clear issues that you will have to deal with, but don’t be depressed about it. The fact is you have reached out to some with the Word of God and they have no excuse not to know about God’s message to humankind. You are doing exactly what you have been called to do. Make sure you have a few friends who will pray for you and establish friendships with other fellow apologists.
There are some things about apologetics you should know as there are a number of different disciplines within apologetics. Some deal with philosophy, archaeology, history and legal approaches but their objective is the same: to tackle lies and misconceptions that are being presented by those who oppose Christianity. Note that this is not a fight that we will win by copying what attackers are doing. This is only truly won when love, reason and truth are combined and all coming from our Lord Jesus.
APOLOGETICS HAS LIMITS: Its work is limited to identifying an unusual characteristics of the Bible, its accuracy, consistency and life changing qualities. Rest comes from the faith itself supported by apologetics. I have been told before (I guess in order to provoke some reaction) that I have helped to reaffirm one atheist’s view that religion is wrong. It is not our job to convert but the Holy Spirit’s. We deal with providing reasoning behind our faith as it is about being prepared to give an answer to all who ask us for a reason for our faith.
There are different disciplines of apologetics and you will do well to understand what they are as this will help you understand what tool you need to use when dealing with an attack.
Philosophical/Theological Apologetics: Considering that a high number of attacks on Christianity are philosophical in character, to answer them there was a need to develop Philosophical Apologetics. David Hume is one of the famous philosophers (from Scotland) who challenged Christianity based on his philosophical reasoning.
Historical/Legal Apologetics: With the development of archeology, historical data was on the increase. As the Bible was written as History and covers more than 2000 years, archaeological developments have a direct impact on Biblical study.
Rational/Scientific Apologetics: Science and knowledge are now equated with the word truth but this is not always the case. As the average man becomes more engrossed into science this then becomes a tool of choice with which to attack the Bible. The introduction of the theory of evolution in the 19th century emboldened many to challenge the Bible and it is the area of Rational / Scientific Apologetics where any defence of the Bible would start. Creationism and Intelligent Design are the most advanced areas of rational apologetics.
Interdisciplinary Apologetics: As attacks become more varied and sophisticated in nature, the need for interdisciplinary Apologetics was developed. The multi discipline of apologetics was developed to defend increasingly more sophisticated opponents.
CHRISTIAN ETHICS: With many including Richard Dawkins attacking the “Barbaric” nature of Jews and God toward non Jews, defence of Biblical Ethics needs a detailed understanding of a number of subjects such as history, legal science, and theology. Christian ethics was born out of this need to explain apparent discrepancies between the Old and New Testament.
THE PROBLEM OF EVIL AND SUFFERING: Atheists argue that evil and human suffering cannot co-exist with an all-powerful, loving God. The apologist has to use multi skills such as philosophy, theology and history to defend against these arguments.
LEGAL APOLOGETICS: Legal and logical argument is another part of Historical/Legal Apologetics. Thus legal apologetics is also considered a part of Interdisciplinary Apologetics. This is looking at the evidence from the point of legal investigation of the presented evidence i.e. what would be admissible in a court of law.
RELATIONAL APOLOGETICS: Sometimes an overlooked point in many discussions is that we tend to gain our understanding about the world around us through experiences we have such as getting to recognize everyday objects. When debating we may be asked to demonstrate scientifically the truth about God but the real answer may lie in the use of personal relationship.
GOD’S EXISTENCE: The spiritual nature of God is non testable and therefore science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God. The use of different types of Apologetics is therefore required.
MIRACLES AND RESURRECTION: With Atheists and Liberals aggressive attempts to dismiss the resurrection of Jesus and other Biblical miracles recorded in the Bible you will need to use different apologetic tools. This subject needs to be addressed through interdisciplinary Apologetics.
BIBLE TEXT/LANGUAGE/CANON: The text, language, and canon of the Bible are favourite targets for Bible attackers and questions asked have to be answered by combining information through other types of apologetics, history, geography, linguistics, and even philosophy.
If you are into apologetics and may have found these helpful or have something to add, please let me know.
Defend the word