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What to Say to Atheists
MONDAY, JULY 11, 2011
Posted by: Westminster Presbyterian Church | more..
1,100+ views | 70+ clicks
Recently one of our faithful attendees asked for some help in sharing the gospel with his colleagues who are very busy people and have little to no time to chit chat (though we understand the gospel to be of the greatest importance because it impacts eternity and not just this life---although it certainly has profound implications for our life on this planet).He said that some of these "busy" people were even Agnostic or Atheist. Al Baker, has provided another helpful devotional on why we can boldly share the gospel with those around us who are proponents of either agnosticism or atheism. So how do you respond to those who cloak their unbelief in scientism or just old fashioned denial of that which is plain to anyone with eyes to see?

Well, Al has some helpful information for us that I think you will find profitable. By the way, please remember the Baker’s in prayer as this dear brother will be leaving the ministry at Christ Presbyterian in West Hartford, CT the end of the year in order to serve the Lord as an evangelist for Presbyterian Evangelism Fellowship (PEF) and as the coordinator for church planting for Evangel Presbytery in Alabama. Al and Winnie would deeply appreciated your intercessory prayers for the church and for them as they transition in the coming months.

-Dr. Gary R. Cox

FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS, volume 10, number 27, July 7, 2012

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God," Psalm 14:1.

What to Say to Atheists

We have lots of self-professed atheists and agnostics here in New England. More are coming all the time to your community as well. No doubt they are emboldened by the militant atheism of Christopher Hitchens and others like him. What should you say to atheists and agnostics? Try this.

As we consider this question it becomes clear that only three possible options exist—there is no God, there may be a God, or there is a God. And if there is a God a follow up question becomes necessary—what kind of God is he? Let’s take these options one at a time. First is atheism—there is no God. For someone to affirm this logically will mean he must be omniscient, knowing all things. We know that man uses very little of his brain capacity, and even if the smartest person in the world used 100% of his brain capacity, he would still fall woefully short of knowing everything about everything. Men are limited to their own experience, reading, and training. When missionaries in Papua New Guinea try to explain ice to the local people, the people laugh, thinking such a concept is impossible. The existence of ice is outside the experience realm of these primitive people but their lack of knowledge does not negate the existence of ice. While God may be outside the experience realm of an atheist this does not mean God does not exist. We can go further and say that no self-proclaimed atheist lives consistently with his position. Atheism ultimately means nothing has any purpose whatsoever. It means we simply live, die, and go back to the dust. But no atheist lives that way, does he? He values relationships. He loves his wife and children. He loves his dog. He gains a measure of meaning from his work and service to others.

Second is agnosticism—I don’t know. Maybe God exists, maybe He doesn’t. Agnosticism is the belief system of choice for many intellectuals today. They love to say, “While we cannot prove God does not exist, we also must say that we cannot prove He does exist.” At the outset we need to understand that all of us approach every issue of life, whether physical or meta-physical, with certain presuppositions. The agnostic is not sure God exists, and this belief system is the grid through which all the data of his life passes. Likewise, the theist is sure God exists, and this serves as the grid through which he interprets all of life’s stimuli. Paul the apostle says that that which is known about God is evident within them because God made it evident to them, that since the creation of the world God’s invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. He goes on to say that though they knew God they did not honor Him as God or give thanks but became futile in their speculations. It’s like this—suppose a man is involved in a serious automobile accident and believes he has died. While in the emergency room he is told by the doctor that he must undergo a life-saving operation. The man says, “Why do that? I am dead.” The doctor says, “Isn’t it true that dead men do not bleed?” The man says, “Yes, of course.” So the doctor pricks the man’s finger and blood flows, to which the man says, “Well, what do you know! Dead men do bleed.” Something cannot come from nothing. Order cannot come from chaos. The very intricate nature of the human body, the very order of the universe ought to be enough to convince people that God exists. But man in his pride, and I suppose in his desire to live without accountability to God, suppresses the overwhelming evidence for God. At the end of the day, some things cannot be proven measurably or tangibly. We cannot prove unconditionally that love is better than hate. We cannot unconditionally prove God’s existence.

And third is theism—God exists. Again the order of the cosmos, the intelligent design of all things living, and the meaning of life all point to the existence of a God. But this begs a further question—what kind of God is He? Is He the same God as the Hindus, Christians, Muslims, or animists believe? The world around us proclaims the existence of God, but we need something more to tell us who He is. Even a cursory look at how these religions define their gods makes clear a contradiction. Each view of God is mutually exclusive from the other. They are saying very different things about God. All can be wrong but not all can be right.

But then someone may say to you, “The Bible cannot be the word of God? What makes you so sure that it is reliable and trustworthy?”

I addressed this issue recently [1] but desire now to add some additional information. No scholar today rejects the accuracy of such ancient writers as Homer, Tacitus, or Suetonius, even though the number of their early manuscripts is no less than eight hundred years after the originals, and even though the number of said manuscripts is less than ten in every case, except for Homer where we have less than seven hundred. We believe Homer’s writings are 95% accurate. Why then do many scholars reject the New Testament manuscripts, especially when we have over five thousand of them, all within three hundred years of the originals? The short answer is prejudice. We know, for example, that the Old Testament Masoretes, those who copied the Hebrew Scriptures, were meticulous in their work. If even one mistake was found in a new text, it was thrown out. And the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947, dated at least one thousand years before the Masoretic texts, proves the accuracy and trustworthiness of the Masoretes. [2]

Then there is the study of ancient texts, what we call textual criticism. It is a science meant to get us as close as possible to the original manuscripts. It is an ever growing field with thousands of early Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. We are able to piece these together and reconstruct the original documents of the New Testament. We have fifty-eight hundred full copies of the Greek New Testament, all within three hundred years of the originals, many within one hundred years of them. The more manuscripts and the earlier they are make it more likely to piece together what the original documents said. Textual critics have been saying for over three hundred years now that though minor discrepancies still exist in the ancient Biblical texts, nothing of the meaning or veracity of the original documents has been lost. So when one picks up any good translation of the Bible (one based on the science of textual criticism) then one can be assured he is reading almost an exact representation of the original words of Scripture.

The Bible, in its original manuscripts, both of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant word of God. By inspired we mean the Holy Spirit so worked in the writers of Scripture that though they wrote in their own styles and social milieu they nonetheless wrote the very words of God. To say the Bible is infallible means that it is without error in all it teaches, that whatever it says about life and God, heaven and hell, is true. If it tells husbands to love their wives sacrificially, then that is what we are to do. If it says that God created all things out of nothing, then that is infallibly true. And to say the Bible is inerrant means that it is factual in all it touches. If it says the sun stood still in Joshua’s day, then that is what happened. If it says that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, that He was crucified, that He was raised from the dead, and that He ascended into heaven, then that is what happened. Consequently the Bible is God’s word and ought to be read, studied, and obeyed.

This all means then that we are to bold and confident in gospel work! We ought never to be ashamed of the gospel.

[1] See my devotionals of May 5, 12, 2012, archived at www.christcpc.org

[2] See Ken Boa’s book I’m Glad You Asked for additional information

Gary R. Cox Gary R. Cox

Category:  From Dr. Gary R. Cox

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