Apologeet.nlWhat Not to Say to an Atheist
or, How not to Debate an Atheist
What not to say to an atheist or how not to debate an atheist. Two different approaches to the same topic in my opinion. First of all, let me say this: I do not like to debate with atheists, sceptics or any other who says they don’t believe in God. I rather sit down with them to enjoy a good coffee and a respectful conversation. However, I realise that many of you, sooner or later, are getting involved in debates or conversations with unbelievers. Maybe you are just a spectator and listen to both sides. Perhaps, you are the one who is actually debating. It is good to know that you, as a Christian, might want to avoid certain statements, certain assumptions. In this video I would like to discuss a few.
What is a Debate?
But what is a debate and what is a discussion. Weirdly enough this is not the same for everybody. For example, I have studied in England. Now, the British are much less direct than the Dutch. So, whenever I thought that I was just discussing certain topics with the teacher, my fellow students, and the teacher as well, all had the feeling that I was debating them. No, I just wanted to wrestle with the topic, that’s all. Officially the word ‘discussion’ is just a synonym of the word ‘debate.’ However, I think overall people would consider a discussion to be less aggressive than a debate.
Overall, I believe that debates, especially those on social media, are not so much about finding the truth, but more about who wins or about being right, not matter what—and the goal quickly becomes ‘winning.’ We all know this feeling right? Sometimes we’ll keep arguing and fighting even we already realised, deep inside, we’re wrong. Beware of this attitude! Honestly! Sometimes it is better to stop and just admit you don’t have all the answers. This doesn’t mean you have to give up your faith in the Lord. No, far from it. However, it will credit you if you could admit not knowing all things. I quit often tell people that, if I have the time, I want to think about a certain topic first before I answer them. Mostly, this results in receiving respect from the other.
Atheists are immoral
Let me start with the first ‘don’t.’ It makes me cringe when I hear Christians say that atheists don’t have morals. True enough, morality comes from God our Creator. But you should not assume that people, who live without God, have none. Morality is ingrained in all of humanity. This is why the normal atheist (not the deprived ones) will right away say that rape is wrong.
Believe it or not, but many atheists are pretty nice people. I know of atheists who are pro-life. You can’t be totally immoral and pro-live at the same time. During the Covid-19 period, I’ve found many atheists who, like I, totally resisted the anti-democratic measures taken by governments. They resisted forced vaccination, police brutality, restriction of free-speech, etcetera. Yes, I found many atheists to be in agreement on these matters with me, whereas, on the other hand, many Christians just seemed to let it all happen. No, don’t tell them they can’t be moral or that they can’t tell right from wrong. The can!
I agree that certain moral ideas do not fit within the real atheistic world-view. Strictly speaking, an atheistic, naturalistic world-view should view mentally handicapped people as undesirable from an evolutionary point of view. The fact that many atheists do not endorse this idea, is simply because they all benefit from, and are being brought up in the Judeo-Christian world-view, which shaped most of our western societies, and our own personal moral insights.
But let’s turn the question around. If atheists can’t be moral because they don’t believe in God, that would mean that only Christians can be moral, right? Now we are in a pickle. I mean, Jesus can easily be considered as a super moral man! And we are to follow His example… Well, I don’t know about you, but I seem to fail that standard all the time. We are supposed to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, gentle and self-controlled. You might be all of that, but let me assure you, if Christianity is all about the most moral people, we are lost big time. Christianity is all about wretched people who are pardoned by the grace of God.
It’s in the Bible
Because the Bible says so! I know, I know! The Bible is our guide, the Bible has all the authority. Also, the presuppositionalists will tell you that you should only argue your case through the Bible. So, even though I try to use the Bible in all my reasoning, I am a bit careful with just saying “because the Bible says so.” Atheists don’t accept the Bible. “Who cares, how do you know that the Bible is true?” They say. And before you know it the whole conversation goes down a different route.
No! Don’t leave the Bible on your bookshelf, it is your ultimate guide. Just try to avoid hiding behind this phrase. If you don’t know the answer… Just admit it, and then you can say that you want to trust the Bible in this specific issue.
Science is Bad!
Many atheists pride themselves in science or their scientific approach to life. As a response we see many Christians take an opposite position. They even go as far as saying that science is anti-God. However, the fact that you are hearing or reading this on the web is due to science. Living in the bush of Madagascar I benefited big time of science. Where would I have been without antibiotics, malaria and other anti-parasite medicine. Science is wonderful!
Pure science is not at all atheistic in essence. I actually believe that science isn’t pure naturalistic. Some atheists would like you to believe that, but it is just not true. Science is about finding answers and explaining the things we see around us. Somewhere down the line certain people hijacked science for their own course. They insisted that science cannot consider the supernatural—in the progress robbing science from a very important facet, namely being unbiased. Finding out how medicine react on the body is one thing. That is easy to check and to try by testing. However, pure naturalistic science cannot come to a satisfying answer when it comes to historical issues. Not all things can be answered purely naturalistic. We shouldn’t think that science has all the answers, but we cannot just say that science is bad. Also, we should be careful using God as a plug when science can’t provide an answer. Likewise, atheists should be careful dismissing the supernatural in advance.
Science is wonderful! Christians should embrace science, just like our believing ancestors did. However, we should not follow ‘science’ in all its ideas. Especially the historical events are very hard to prove through pure naturalistic science. A Christian should follow his Lord in everything. That means that sometimes we have to dismiss certain scientific ideas. I wholeheartedly dismiss the so-called scientific theory of evolution. Likewise, I reject scientific research of enhancing the human body through nano-technology. But on the other hand, if nanotechnology means that it becomes easier to target certain cancers, I would embrace it. You see, it is a thin line in which we have to find our way.
If an atheist want to prove his or her case through science, we shouldn’t shout that we reject science! Do we accept all scientific outcomes? No! Fact remains that many debaters will try to let certain findings work for them. We need to realise that science has been wrong many times, and that this is what science is about. Science is designed to admit its ignorance and look for better data.
Even though science is wonderful, God’s word is even better.
For ever, O LORD, Thy word Is settled in heaven.
And Isaiah 40:8
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
It Has to be God!!
This one ties in with the last one. When something happens which is hard to explain, we should be careful throwing in this cliché: “that has to be the work of God, how else would you explain it?” Of course, we believe that God is in absolute control. When a motorcyclist drives with high speed and slams into a truck and only breaks his little pinky, I would say that God spared him. However, the motorcyclist might say he just had a crash course and knew how to brace himself before impact. It might be a better tactic to say that you will thank God that he just had this course. I know! You want to convince him it was God! But be wise
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
You just Have to Believe
Do you mean to say that you can’t really explain what you believe? Or does it mean that you have no idea how to answer certain questions. That is not a problem! I mean, you can’t know everything right? Just admit, be honest and move on. “Yeah, but that atheist might think that he has won the battle!” So what! Unless you’re in a official debate, with an audience, that not such a big deal right? Many people actually respect honesty. Even though that person will proclaim victory, he or she will go home, knowing you were honest. Don’t make a mess. You are bound to meet that one person who is just a little more knowledgeable than you are. Even if you run out of patience. Don’t send the other away with that knockdown argument: “just wait until you really understand it!”
Without God there is no Love
Do you mean to say that an atheist cannot love his children nor his wife? Is that really what we think? This one ties in with the one in which we discussed whether atheists can be moral. God is love! That is true and that is what we can expect to find in His creation. Love is deeply rooted in our being, that it is impossible to state that an atheist cannot have love.
Saying that an atheist cannot love is actually admitting that the atheistic world-view is true. We, Christians, suppose to come to the ‘battleground’ fully armed with God’s armer. That means, we should approach all discussions within and through our Christian world-view. Jesus completely assumed the existence of God in all of His conversations. We cannot do less. Sure enough, the naturalistic world-view cannot account for immaterial things like love or morality, but we do not come to this debate with that world-view, do we?
So, obviously, seen from the Judeo-Christian world-view, everybody can love. Stop insulting others by telling them they have no love. I wouldn’t go down this road, ever. Atheists mostly come with an explanation anyway. “You see,” they say, “seen from an evolutionary point of view it is much more beneficial to love people.” And now you end up in an endless debate about possible evolutionary scenarios.
You don’t Know Anything about Peace
As a missionary on Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the world, I know that we have been sponsored by unbelieving people. Mostly, they didn’t really fancy the fact that I preached the Gospel, but they did like the idea of us helping others with healthcare and basic humanitarian things.
I come across many unbelievers who spend their precious time to charity, who donate to good causes, and who actually leave behind their luxurious homes to come and live here on Madagascar. When I talk to them, I sense a real desire to bring peace and prosperity to the people.
Again, I am fully convinced that this comes forth out of the innate sense of morality. For me personally this is just another proof of God’s existence. So, instead of telling an atheist that he knows nothing about peace, we might consider thanking him for trying to do his part. I normally thank those workers who came all the way to this country to help. This is not always mutual though. Many humanitarian workers don’t really understand what preaching the Gospel has to do with bringing peace. Some even went as far as telling me that I’d better stop doing that and go back to my country. But honestly, many others do see the value of helping the people in a holistic way. But before I go down this rabbit hole, I want to point to an article I have written about this topic many years ago:
Atheists are just Angry at God
I’ll confess… I have used this argument pretty often. I mostly used it when an atheist commented on my video in a very nasty and angry way. But, I have also met atheists who seemed to be very disappointed about Christians and the church in general. They distanced themselves from everything concerning church. Yes, these people can come across as being angry and or bitter.
No, I think many atheists have become atheistic through the things they have read, studied and heard. They followed, what they believe to be the truth. This so-called truth is mostly embedded in audacious claims by some in the scientific community. Many atheists used to be Christians. Sadly enough their doubts were not met head-on within the church, so they had to find satisfactory answers outside. It would be unfair to tell them they just use their unbelief as a mask for their hatred towards God. Certainly, there are those who are angry with God, but most are just not.
Disregard their Arguments in Advance
Like I said, many atheists used to be Christian. This mostly means that they have been through a time of struggling with God’s word, the Bible. Many of them know what the Bible says. Mind you, knowing what it says doesn’t mean they understand it. They have arguments for not believing it. The fact that I choose to park certain questions for later, doesn’t mean I am better. There are questions of which I have trouble finding an answer for.
Some Christians go as far as saying that these atheists never had the right insights because they didn’t have the Holy Spirit—else they would have never questioned God’s word. I would be very careful saying that if I were you! Would that mean that the questions I have, I have because I do not allow the Holy Spirit to work in me? I strongly doubt that idea.
Instead, we should listen to their arguments. You don’t have to embrace these arguments, but listening helps you to understand what keeps the person from believing, and trusting the Lord Jesus. It doesn’t matter if you can’t give all the answers. At least you have shown that you are willing to listen. Later you might continue were you have left off, and you might even have received some brilliant insights for that specific person.
I don’t Have Proof for God, I just Believe it… And so Should You!
Why on earth would you say a thing like this? If there is no proof for something, including God, you should not accept it. Faith is not blind. Blindly believing something without any evidence at all isn’t really faith. You have tons of clues and proves of God’s existence. If you don’t know any of these proves and clues, I would like to advise you to investigate those first before going to try to convince atheists.
Do you remember this text: Romans 1:20
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
And how about Hebrews 3:4
For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.
If you accept that a house, a painting, or a laptop has a builder, you’re not far from accepting that our immensely more complex universe has a Builder as well. The clues are there for the taking!
Remember, the only thing you want to win is his or her soul for eternity. Like I said, debates seem to trigger a deep longing to win, no matter what! It is nice when you are able to totally ‘destroy’ your opponents arguments, but what good does it do if you can’t win them for Christ. Agreed, it might help the audience to ‘weigh’ the arguments for or against Christianity. In that case, a good Christian debater might help that one doubting person to turn around and accept Christ as his or her Saviour. But outside the ring, I wouldn’t spend too much time on winning.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
No, Paul is not teaching us that we should do the same things the unbelievers do. He is trying to teach us to investigate someone else’s ideas and position. We have to sit down with the other and try to listen to their arguments. Try to find out where the other is coming from. Why do they believe what they believe? Paul wasn’t trying to ‘win’ all the time. He accepted that people were looking down on him. If that had meant that he could win some for Christ, he thought it to be worth it. That’s why he says that he is doing it all for the sake of the gospel. Because he wants to share in its blessings along with those who are saved.
Anyway! Do let me know your thoughts in the comments of the video or article below. Remember! I am mostly active on my Odysee channel. You’ll find a link to that channel in the description of this video. You might also like to check out my new channel on GabTV. I already had an account on Gab, but now I also think it is nice to upload my videos there. Check it out in the description.
I very much appreciate your prayers and support! Please take a look in the description of this video to find out how you can help me. Also, I’ll place a link there to both the Dutch and English transcripts of this video. And finally, you’ll find the links to other videos and articles related to this topic.
God bless you, thank you for watching, and Lord willing we’ll see each other in my next video!