Originally published August 11, 2009.
The other day I checked in on a Bible Facebook group that I sometimes follow and in the comments there was an interesting request. One member, perhaps passing through, indicated that he was an atheist and would like for someone to provide a convincing argument that a divine entity existed. Now, it’s at this point I must say I don’t know what compelled me to message him, nor had I prepared any sort of conversation. I was just honestly wondering what might have persuaded him to be an atheist, where his beliefs came from, and what convincing argument he was looking for. I’ll also quickly mention that as Christians we should care for each and every lost soul and I still pray that Christ might reveal himself to this young man, perhaps even through this site as I recount our conversation.
When I first mention a conversation with an atheist, the initial thought might be to take an apologetic route. I don’t claim to be an expert on atheistic issues, but I felt like I should try to find out what his beliefs were and admittedly to determine where his thought process fell, i.e. relativism. I asked questions along the lines of “Do you believe we are born with the ability to determine right from wrong” to which he answered no. I then followed up attempting to probe deeper into those thoughts, but each time I was thwarted in MY efforts.
At this point I prayed, “Dear Lord guide my steps, my thoughts, let my words be Your words” and the young man’s next response was essentially let’s stop being so apologetic and cut to the chase. And then it hit me and with all the sincerity of my heart I replied with:
Ahh I see, well forgive me. I was merely trying to understand where you were coming from. Without apologetics, you’re left with one thing standing in your way between understanding whether a divine entity exists or not.
See where apologetics fails is that it presumes that all things can be broken down into logical concepts, arguments if you will, that prove or disprove one point or another. While on the surface this makes sense, as it appeals to the very intellectual nature of our being, it lacks a key, necessary component and that is faith.
We can banter back and forth about relativistic points of view, to establish morality or whether a divine entity created the earth or not and that is all well and good, nothing wrong with that at all. But at the end of the day, without faith you and I are the same person. We both do what we want, when we want, and live each day doing the best we can.
Without my faith in the only One and True living God, I am an atheist. Without my faith that God loved His only Son so much that He sent Him to die on the cross for me and all of my disgusting sins, I am an atheist too. But I have that faith. And through my faith I am saved from those sins. And through that faith I have eternal life through my Savior. And that faith is all I need. Because if I’m wrong and everything I believe in is wrong, have I lost anything? No, you and I would end up in the same place after we die. But if I’m right and my faith is all that’s needed in this world, then that’s a big difference isn’t it?
At the end of the day that’s the separation between us <name>, it comes down to faith. Neither of us were granted a higher knowledge over the other or have seen some great revelation that leads us to our beliefs. I have faith in my Savior Jesus Christ and perhaps you want proof so that you can believe in a higher power, but in the end it’s faith you are searching for. But I’m afraid you won’t find it by searching, no one is going to provide you with the answer you’re looking for, it’s within you already and it’s up to you to believe.
“So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” Romans 10:17
I’m sure it’s easy to look back on that and say, well you should’ve said this or that or phrased your response this way, but that’s the way it came out, so that’s the way it is. Why is it that some have the capacity to have faith while others, like my young friend, seemingly do not, or at least not yet?
See what my friend, and so many others who are searching, long for is a god to mold into what they want. What Christians have is a God that molds us to what He wants. That’s the difference and it’s big.
In John 3, Jesus is approached by Nicodemus who says, “…Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” John 3:2 To which Jesus replies, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3
Ah, if only I had remembered this encounter before mine with my young friend, because here, it is Jesus who cuts to the chase. He wastes no time in witnessing to Nicodemus. He doesn’t even wait for him to ask the question, before He has already stated the answer. Nicodemus is no fool, he understands the figurative language that Jesus is using, but nevertheless he asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” John 3:4 He knows that his question is not a possibility, but as he’s picked up on Jesus’ analogy, he inquires more. Jesus replies, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.'” John 3:5-7
Jesus reemphasizes His figurative language by pointing out the Spiritual cleansing and Spiritual rebirth necessary for salvation and essential to entering heaven. It should be noted that being born of water in this passage does not refer to baptism, but rather the spiritual cleansing through being born again. As though He perceived the potential next question from Nicodemus, Jesus follows up by explaining the root of this rebirth does not come from man, but from the Spirit Himself. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8
That last sentence of Jesus’ statement is so important towards understanding our previous question of why is it that some people come to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, yet others don’t. It’s this passage that so clearly points out that it’s not a human decision. Meaning it is not within us to “make a decision” without the power of the Holy Spirit moving in our lives and in our hearts.
As Jesus indicates, the Spirit moves where He wishes and we never see Him, never know from where He comes, nor where He is going, but we see the impacts. We see the impact on the lives changed by His presence. Spiritual rebirth is as much or more a miracle than our original birth from the womb.
Our role as Christians is to preach the Gospel and expose nonbelievers to the Word of God. (Mark 16:15) In accordance with this, in order to be faithful to Jesus’ commission, we need to be well equipped with a strong knowledge of the Bible, because it is through God’s Word that seeds of salvation are planted in the hearts of nonbelievers. We can make rational arguments through apologetic presentations, present emotional “seeker sensitive” church services, and even present biblical truths, but without the power of the Holy Spirit, no true regeneration or even a desire for one can take place.
Prayer: My prayer is that the Holy Spirit reaches out to our unsaved friends and family that they might realize their need for a Savior in Jesus Christ. That the Holy Spirit might bring them to repentance and that they might openly and willingly respond when this happens. That the Spirit of the Lord might put each one of us in the path of the unsaved and that He might guide our steps, our thoughts, let our words be His words that we might be useful vessels in conveying the wonderful truths of the Word of God.
Additional Study: 1 Corinthians 2:6-16