Apologeet.nlWhy I don’t Debate Atheists
Why I don’t debate atheists? Well, that statement is not entirely true because, so now and then, I do respond on their remarks. However, I try to avoid these endless debates on forums, YouTube and other online platforms. You see, it is often a quite different situation if you meet someone in person, and it turns out that this person identifies himself as an atheist. For some reason, the conversations are much more respectful if you can look each other in the eyes. Or that might be because I look impressive…
Angry People on Both Sides
I guess my stance is mostly about online debates. I used to be an un-believer. I wouldn’t classify myself as an atheist back then. I think the term agnostic is more suitable. I remember how fiery I was when I finally became a Christian. One day I went along with an evangelist. He used to go to the pubs on Friday night. He was the real deal, and I wanted to see how he did.
One evening we came across a group of young men who used to be my friends. As my friend the evangelist started his plea, they started to mock him. They were very disrespectful, and he didn’t say anything about it. No worries! I was there to save the day. I looked my old mates in the eyes, lifted my fist and told them to listen or else…
It worked! They listened to the whole story. Later I told my friend that I thought that the whole episode was a success. He laughed and said that I might consider changing my tactic. Back then I thought that there was no need to change. If people don’t want to listen, you just make them to.
Making people listen can quickly become a goal in itself. The sincere Christian might have a hard time not trying to force the Gospel up someone’s throat. I mean, we really want that guy or lady to be saved right? Maybe you can spook them into Christianity. Tell them about hell, that worked for me! But than it might come as a surprise that Jesus’ warnings about hell were mostly discussed among His own followers. Jesus didn’t seem to preach fire and brimstone all the time.
Okay, how about trying to outwit the other with smart arguments. With the Christian world-view we have logic on our side, so debunking all the arguments launched by atheists seems to be the way. Only, now we seem to forget that most unbelievers are just not easily convinced by arguments that seem to take the supernatural in account. Even if the supernatural isn’t even part of the argument, many just know that in the end you try to convince them about God anyway.
Yes, I know! It can be very frustrating to know you have logic on your side, but the other just doesn’t want to grab it. Oh, those dumb atheists! Are they purposely dumb? Or are they just born that way? Oops, you see what happens? You became angry, and maybe even confused.
But how about people who call themselves atheist? Are the any better? Well, honestly? I think many atheists, especially the typical YouTube atheist, are much more nasty and angry in online debates than most Christians. They yell, they make up all sorts of names for us, they blaspheme the name of Jesus, and they treat others like rubbish. Not all of them! I have been blessed with some very nice and respectful discussions in the past.
But, just recently one person commented on one of my videos. I’ll pick some of the words from that comment: brainwashing, trojan horse of irrelevance, gobblygook, spiritual enslavement, maniacal control freak-ridden pseudoreligions.
You have to hand it to him or her, it is very creative. But, really? How much effort will it cost me to respond on all these accusations? And I don’t think it will result in anything else than an even angrier person. The writer will probably shout, with Caps-Lock on, that he is not angry! Okay, if this is the way you normally respond, I do not want to see you angry… Better not discussing these topics with you than.
Actually, I believe that apologetics is in the first place a great tool to help Christians grow in their faith. I’ll come back to that later.
First, I think I need to address the emotional side of this issue. I do understand why Christian get angry. Many of us just don’t understand why others are willingly ignorant while showing them all the signs and arguments for a creating God.
2 Peter 3:3-5
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water.
That’s right, the Bible says that many unbelievers are willingly ignorant, purposely dumb. Oh boy, I can see all the angry comments already, that is going to be fun to read!
But, why this emotional responds. Why would they scoff the way they do? I know, the topic of God vs. atheism can be very emotional, but you will not find comparable insults on the Christian side. Why then are so many atheists so angry?
Atheists often like to say that they just don’t believe in God. However, if they really were unbelievers they should live their lives as if God did not exist, right? You see, I don’t believe in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Many children have heard this story, and they loved it. They fantasised about it, and re-enacted the story in the garden. But I know it is a fairytale, it is not real. But I am not going to write books called The end of Jack and the giant, Jack’s giant is Not Great, or The Beanstalk Delusion.
The urge to fight this hard against Christianity seems to reveal a certain anger towards God; they behave like they are at war with God. Bitterness sounds through the titles of their book, the titles of their videos, their discussion and what not. Yes,you can hear their bitterness through their nasty insults in the comment section under Christian videos.
But I also think they become so angry because they are not used to having their sophisticated reasons revealed as they are, not as sophisticated as they think they are. Just look at the responses when the famous spokesmen of atheism lose in debates against people like William Lane Craig, John Lennox, Norm Geisler, Frank Turek etc.
As soon as the atheist community feels that their fighter lost, they are quick to say that they weren’t in shape, he didn’t prepare well enough, he made a fool out of himself etc. No, they would have answered differently! Like they, the all-knowing YouTube atheists, are more knowledgeable than those heavyweights on stage. Don’t get me wrong, there might be a few very intellectual atheists roaming the internet, but the fast majority haven’t studied the topics as deeply as these men. They are prepared big time when they step into that arena with a Christian apologist. So, don’t pretend you would have done much better.
Why I, Personally, do not Debate Atheists?
So why am I not going to use apologetics in debates with atheists? Well, the first reason is very simple. I just don’t have the knowledge to respond very quickly on all the questions they launch. I practice apologetics as a hobby. That means that I do not have the time to do the amounts of research needed to successfully debate. There are very good apologists out there who are privileged enough to spend many hours studying all the different topics. I rather leave it to them, who I consider to be much smarter on these topics than I am.
Why I use Apologetics
However, I do feel knowledgeable enough to make videos like these, and to preach, and educate. Why? Because preparing a video, sermon or a study can be done in parts. I do not have to have add-hoc answers, I can prepare myself over the course of days or even a week. I thus rather use my talents to help the Church of Christ grow.
I came across this explanation of apologetics:
Apologetics is the systematic and logical defence of Christianity against its detractors and unbelievers backed up by evidence showing its credibility.i
I know the invitations in the Bible that say you need to try to convince people. But there are even more texts that say that we need to help each others to grow in the faith. Our young people need to see why we believe what we believe. They need to be able to relate it to the surrounding things. That way they can adopt the Christian faith with intellectual and rational honesty, rigor, and certainty.
Did I just say ‘young people’? Yes, that is because the older Christians don’t have much trouble right? Well, wrong! I actually found that many older Christians aren’t that stable in their faith as the like you to believe. What they do master though, is appearance. Many older Christians are just not willing to change much about their lifestyles. Becoming an atheist isn’t relevant for them because that would mean they lose their social activities. Then, a teenager or someone in his twenties comes by with questions, and they just tell them that faith is a mystery, they shouldn’t try to rationalise faith etc. And that is just what my atheist friend would call gobblygook.
Throughout the centuries we have seen many attacks towards Christianity. We even see many within Church who proclaim a different Gospel than that of the first apostles. I get to see first hand what happens when Churches are undereducated. In the South-West of Madagascar there are many small churches. Many believers there can’t read and write. They have little knowledge of the Bible. Now, they get a visit from a well-trained Muslim, and he tells them that his prophet is the promised comforter as mentioned by Jesus.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.
I hope you know how to answer this. Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, who came 40 days after His ascension. But these poor Christians have no answer and are quickly lured into Islam. Where are the apologists in those regions?
And now I look at you! Who me? You might wonder. Yes, what is your position? Are you going to spend all your time debating angry unwilling people, because you hope that they tell you the truth when they say they try to gain more knowledge and information about your faith. I forgot were I read this. The question was why atheists always want to debate. And answer that received most likes was because they love to learn.
But you are not called to satisfy their needs. If they want to learn, they can go to the library. You are called to be the light and salt in this world. You might know this text in Matthew 5:13-16
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
To be a Christian is not a synonym of being a wimpy guy or girl. We have enough cry-babies already, Christians who hold to a wishy-washy Gospel and have no idea how to live accordingly let alone how to defend it. In the West most Christians should be able to familiarise themselves with their doctrines. So, why is this not happening? Laziness? Not pressed enough? Not shocked enough when more than half of the youth in church actually leaves the faith of their parents behind them? I have no idea. And that bothers me big time.
But what I do know is that your position doesn’t need to be like that. The Church is in need of strong men and women who can lead and train others. We still need many, well-trained, missionaries or evangelists here on Madagascar. Christians who are not afraid of confronting false teachers, who are not afraid of correcting those Muslim preachers. Christians who like to come with me to visit the biggest witchdoctor of our area… Fun guaranteed!
Anyway, I would like to challenge you to really become the salt and light Jesus was talking about. Try and see whether you can find a good Bible-school in your area. Maybe an evening school, I’ve done that for five years and I loved it.
Okay, I’ll leave it at this. I think I will do the next video on the importance of apologetics. I already touched a little on that topic in this one, but there are many more good reasons to train yourself as being an apologists. But that has to wait for the next one. For now, just let me know your thoughts in the comment section of this video. I love to hear from you.
I also want to thank all of you who subscribed to my channel. On YouTube I’ve got something like 1800 subscribers, and on Odysee I already have around 5000. Which is amazing! Let’s see whether we can reach more people with the Good News of Jesus Christ by growing even bigger.
Maybe, you can add some more Christian flavour to the Odysee sauce by starting your won Christian channel. You can use my invitation in the description to get started, and we will both receive some free LBC!
In the description of this video you’ll find ways to support me, and I’ll place a link to the Dutch and English transcript of this video.
As always, thank you for watching,
God bless you and we see each other in the next video!
i Livermore, D. J., School of Jewish & Biblical Studies, Introduction to Apologetics, [internet] http://www.hadavar.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Apologetics-1-Introduction.pdf, (accessed 21-05-2022), p.6.