The existence of God is at the root of the Christian Faith. Atheists say God does not exist. Agnostics say no one can know if He exists. Pantheists believe that God is all things and all things are God. Polytheists believe in many gods. Deists believe in a God Who Created the universe, but is no longer involved in it. Monotheists believe in One God, but disagree about Who He is. So many views about something so simple – either there is a God or there isn’t.
When I was an atheist and encountered Christians who wanted to debate the issue of God’s existence on my radio show, I asked them a simple question – Can you prove it? That’s where most Christians stumbled. They didn’t know what to say, so they started quoting Scripture to prove God’s existence and I would stop them – saying that you can’t prove the existence of God from an ancient document purportedly dictated to people by the God you cannot prove. The Christians I spoke to during the years I was on radio didn’t know where to go when I wouldn’t let them argue from the Bible. Many got angry with me or said they would pray for me, then hung up. The way I saw it back then, I won the argument.
The fact is, they were right but didn’t know how to deal with an atheist who wouldn’t let them try to prove the existence of God from Scripture. Is there any proof of God outside the Bible? I ask that question to help you think outside the normal way Christians present the Gospel to people. Christians have a spiritual language they understand, but atheists don’t get it and don’t want to hear it. So, what do you do? How do you talk with an atheist about God when they won’t listen to you quote Scripture to them? Is there any other way to share the Truth of God’s existence?
- Atheists already know what Christians believe, so don’t start there. Begin by asking them a question about what they believe – and ask it in a kind way.
I’ve asked many atheists through the years to tell me about their beliefs and most were willing to tell me. People like to talk about themselves and their beliefs, so listen carefully and respectfully.
- As they share their beliefs, ask questions that lead to more insights into what they believe and how they think.
Atheists are individuals and have individual thoughts, if we just give them an opportunity to talk about them. Don’t lump atheists and agnostics into one group and think you understand them. I’ve given atheists my book, A History of Man’s Quest for Immortality, and asked them to tell me what they thought about it. That has led to further discussions about the existence of God.
- Remember that all atheists are skeptics, but not all atheists are scoffers.
If an atheist is not on the offensive against you, don’t be offensive with them. Your hope should be that one discussion will lead to a second discussion, a third, a fourth, and more.
That’s how I came to Christ. I interviewed Dr. Henry Morris on my radio talk show, then Terry Lytle, then met with Dr. Ed Hindson. After many, many discussions with Terry and Ed, I responded positively to the invitation to ask God for His forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ. Kindness and good answers can go a long way when you talk with an atheist or agnostic about the existence of God.
- At what seems like an appropriate time, ask atheists why they don’t believe in God.
Be sure you ask the question kindly and not in an accusatory or confrontational manner. As soon as you accuse or confront, you’ve changed the tenor of the discussion and atheists will react. Listen carefully and ask follow-up questions. People become atheists for a variety of reasons and it’s good to know why they believe the way they believe.
- Remember that atheism is a “faith” system.
Atheists “believe” there is no God. They can’t prove it, so they have to have a lot of faith in what they believe. They are trusting something and it’s helpful to know what that is.
- Once you’ve listened to them explain why they don’t believe in God, ask if you can share with them why you do believe in God.
Most atheists I’ve spoken with through the years have given me the opportunity to share my beliefs, probably because I listened to them politely and asked questions respectfully. Remember to share with them and not preach at them. Most atheists and agnostics seem to respond well to Christians sharing with them, but they don’t like being preached at.
- Remember that the goal for sharing your belief in God with an atheist or agnostic is not to prove a point.
If you talk to atheists and agnostics because you love them, proving a point is of no interest or importance. Much more is at stake in your discussion – the eternal destiny of a soul is in the balance. I am not a fan of debating atheists because it is often more about proving a point than sharing as one soul to another. If you do get into a debate with an atheist, speak the truth in love and look to the Holy Spirit for the right heart motive and attitude.
- After you share your reasons for believing in God, ask the atheist or agnostic what they think about what you’ve shared.
Listen to their response and respond thoughtfully. I remained open to what Terry and Dr. Ed shared with me over a long period of time because I could tell they liked and respected me as a person. I knew we disagreed on beliefs that were very important to them, but they never demonstrated anger or disrespect toward me.
- Don’t think about atheists or agnostics as “objects” to be won over.
The goal in sharing the Gospel with people and defending the faith is to bring glory to God. When I was an atheist, my goal was never to glorify God. After becoming a Christian, my goal is always to glorify God. That should always be the goal of talking with any unbeliever about God.
In the next part of our study about the existence of God, we will look at important truths you can share with atheists and agnostics that can impact their thinking and lead them to become seekers instead of skeptics.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,