From now on, I am making a commitment not to write, “I will blog on such and such this week,” because I never actually follow through with it. So…a week late, I have a few thoughts on a recent apologetics event held at Purdue.
First, I thought the speaker—Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason—did a good job overall presenting “Three Bad Arguments Against Religion.” He was articulate, humorous, and polite toward his audience while still maintaining a firm grasp on the truth. He began with his half-hour talk detailing the three bad arguments and followed it with a Q&A in which students brought their questions to him and he answered them. I’ve followed Stand to Reason for years, and I always enjoy reading their mailings. They are an excellent resource for Christian thought.
Second, I was disappointed by the atmosphere of the event, particularly during the Q&A. Koukl himself was fine, but the (mostly Christian) audience seemed to hold a derisive attitude toward the atheists asking questions. Admittedly, most of the questioners seemed to be parroting arguments they had heard but didn’t really understand themselves. And admittedly, many of these questioners kept trying to debate with the speaker. However, this didn’t excuse the murmurs, snickers, and even a cry of “bullcrap!” from the audience. The tone was combative; it felt like the Christians perceived Koukl as their hired gun who had come to shoot up all the atheists. How unfortunate for those whose speech is supposed to be “gracious, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:5). The goal should never be to beat up atheists but to present the gospel to them in word and deed.
Third, I’m debating the value in such an event. Koukl himself ended his talk with the point that atheists hide behind bad arguments because they don’t want to face God and his moral law. This is absolutely true (Romans 1:18-23). However, I’m concerned that by trying to shoot down these bad arguments, we may end up playing a game of Whack-a-Mole, in which we knock out one argument only to be faced with another and then another and then another. (And by the way, this only works if you’re smarter than the atheist. If not, you’re probably screwed.) I’ve had this experience with an atheist friend of mine who would always respond to my answers with “just one more question.” If it is true that “no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:11), then it won’t be logical arguments that turn people to Christ.
Our weapons are often too weak. Trying to argue someone into becoming a Christian is like using a toy gun; it is no match for a mind that is “hostile to God” (Romans 8:7) and won’t submit to him. Even if I were to destroy all of an unbeliever’s arguments, I’d be naive to think that he would have no choice but to believe. Even someone rising from the dead won’t convince someone of what he doesn’t want to believe (Luke 16:31).
Here’s what we can do: present the gospel simply and clearly, drawing our authority from the only potent weapon that we’ve been given—the Word of God accompanied by the power of the Spirit of God (Ephesians 6:17). Treat others with grace, love, and respect. Listen carefully to their objections and arguments. Demonstrate that we’ve thought through these tough issues, thereby showing reasonable, sensible character. If we are faced with a challenge that we don’t know how to answer, admit it and promise to look into it (and then do it!). In other words, “walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time” (Colossians 4:5). That’s how we become wise and attractive ambassadors for Christ to a world that sees so little of his goodness in those who profess to follow him.
Were you at the event? I’d like to hear your perspective on it in the comments below!