It’s hard enough being a parent with just the normal, everyday things one has to deal with. We worry about who our kid’s friends are. We worry about them getting into alcohol or drugs. We worry about how we are going to feed them. We worry about how safe they are as they drive. And the list goes on.
But there is another worry that can also drive us to heartache. What happens when our kids, who grew up in church, decide they will no longer believe in God? That is gut wrenching on more than one level. For one, it brings up concerns about their eternal destiny. It is hard to live with the thought that the child we love might not go to heaven. But there is another concern that also comes about and this one affects basic, every day communication and interaction.
When someone decides to become an Atheist, they are not merely choosing another belief. They have stepped into a world which literally views reality differently. This not only eliminates the possibility of any deep conversation about topics related to personal beliefs (people’s most heartfelt thoughts and feelings), it genuinely puts people in different conceptual worlds.
It is very difficult for most Christians to grasp the depth of this divide. It is much more profound than most people realize. The truth is, Atheists believe that God does not exist just as strongly as Christians believe he does. Most Christians tend to believe that Atheists are basically just in denial, and if things got bad enough for them they would certainly turn to God. But, that is not necessarily true.
Think of it this way. Do you believe in leprechauns? Of course not! Leprechauns are mythical creatures and there is no evidence whatsoever that they exist or ever have existed. There is not really much anyone could say to you to convince you otherwise. True Atheists think this way about God. They do not see any evidence that he exists or ever existed.
Of course, there is evidence that God exists, but it is not the kind of evidence Atheists are willing to acknowledge. We have the historical record, archeology, and all kinds of logical evidence. But the greatest evidence we have of God is personal. It is the fact that we have met him personally that makes the other kinds of evidence credible to us. But Atheists demand “natural” evidence and will not accept the viability of personal evidence. They will merely reject this kind of evidence as a delusion.
So this compels us to ask the question, “How can we deal with this kind of mindset?” What can we say to a person we love in order o help move them beyond non-belief in God?
Atheism Is a Faith
The first thing we need to do when sharing with an Atheist is to help them understand that Atheism is, itself, a faith. Just be ready, though, most Atheists are incredulous to even hear someone say that. They will quickly retort, “How can not believing in something be believing in something?” They simply do not understand the nature of faith.
While they say that they don’t believe in God, they actually do believe in something. And that something is the naturalistic premise that there is no such thing as a supernatural existence. In their minds, they are conceiving of the negative concept of “no God” as a “nothing.” But in actual fact, they are basing their conclusion on the positive concept that God doesn’t exist because a supernatural reality doesn’t exist. It is pretty difficult to deal with a “non-belief.” But it is quite easy to deal with a positive one. So, the first thing that is necessary is to make the person come to an understanding that their “non-belief in God” is actually a “positive assertion that God doesn’t exist.”
How Can They Know Their Atheist Faith Is True?
Once we have made the first point, we can begin to look at the evidence for why Atheism is not a logical belief position. To do this, there are a couple of points that need to be made.
1) Naturalism begins with the assumption that everything, in all of reality, can be accounted for based on empirical (scientific) evaluation. For a Naturalist, since they believe that the natural universe is all that exists, that is the only possibility.
2) But the fact is, Atheists are not able to empirically confirm their own beliefs. There are four key notions they hold which cannot be empirically demonstrated. As such, they must believe them by faith.
∙ They have no natural way of explaining how the matter and energy which make up the natural universe came to exist. There is no science that can even address this topic.
∙ They have no way of explaining how life came to exist. They simply assume that there is some natural way that it happened. Their belief is based on faith, not on science.
∙ They have no way of empirically demonstrating how the variety of life forms which exist on earth came into existence. They try to assert that the Theory of Evolution explains it, but the theory is founded on assumptions about how it must have happened (based on their naturalistic beliefs), not on what they can show by science actually did happen.
∙ They have no way of explaining how human self-consciousness came to be. They assume it to be by naturalistic evolution, but there is no science to demonstrate that it could possibly have happened that way.
What we see here is the difficulty of dealing with people’s beliefs at a worldview level. Unless a person has made the effort to understand the concept of worldview, it is almost impossible to imagine why other people can’t to see the “truth” of “my beliefs.” As it relates to Atheists, why do you think they demand that the Christian faith be proven empirically when they can’t prove their own beliefs based on scientific analysis? The reason is, they don’t even realize that their view is a belief. They honestly think it is based on demonstrable, empirical science.
We live in a world where the naturalistic worldview is the default belief of virtually all of the major institutions in the culture. This is particularly true of the educational system where most of our youth are taught. They simply don’t know any better.
Dealing with this topic, as Christians, is a difficult task. It is truly swimming against the cultural current. It is hard! In fact, it is virtually impossible without equipping ourselves with worldview training. Without that, we simply don’t have the tools to understand how our Atheist friends think. This makes it very difficult to share the gospel in a way that will make sense to them. So, how do we engage a conversation with our loved ones who have declared themselves to be Atheists?
The first thing we have to do is truly learn what they believe so we can have an intelligent conversation with them. Everything begins with a respectful relationship. And good relationships require the ability to communicate effectively. You can’t communicate effectively and lovingly about a topic you don’t understand.
Next, we have to actually engage the conversation. This does not mean to be obnoxious. That will never produce anything positive. At the same time, we must have so much love for the person that we are willing to engage them with the truth in a respectful dialogue which does not come across as dogmatic and hateful. The truth is, the Atheist’s position doesn’t have a way to legitimize itself. That being said, most Atheists don’t realize it.
God is continually working on every person in the world to bring them into relationship with himself. It can be a truly wonderful thing to put ourselves in a position to be an instrument of God in bringing the truth to those we love. But we must be willing to do our part, as well. Lovingly and competently talking about the nature of truth is the key to making a case for the gospel.
© 2012 Freddy Davis