11/19/16 Charles about 35
In this short series I've written about several different reasons atheists have given me for their unbelief and how we might answer them. They've included (1) the pride of being good without God; (2) the perception that Christians are just avoiding responsibility for our actions; (3) the criticism that God can't exist because there is too much suffering in the world; and (4) the man who said he wants to believe, but can't. Underlying most of these excuses, I believe, is the reality that most atheist simply don’t want to believe in God, and they find what they are looking for.
Yesterday we started a conversation with a father watching his three kids at the playground, not expecting our conversation to go on until after dark. We asked what he believes happens to us after we die, and he (Charles) quickly answered "I don't have any beliefs personally but I'm open to being persuaded if you have a good argument one way or another".
Our conversation with Charles went on so long because he wasn't being honest with us and actually was not as unbiased as he first described himself. He remained very evasive about his beliefs, but I gradually recognized many of the common arguments against Christianity found in the latest atheist manuals. We had told him up front that we are Christians from a church nearby and that the Bible is our reference point for truth. But Charles claimed to be an impartial investigator of truth, and that based on the evidence Christianity was not credible. The problem is, if one eliminates God and any possibility of supernatural events, then of course one must dismiss all evidence for God claims such as miracles, Jesus’ divinity, or the inspiration of the Bible.
We weren’t claiming to be able to “prove” Christianity, but that it is possible to have a reasonable faith based on the evidence that is available. Charles demanded overwhelming evidence, using the familiar claim that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. But is it that “extraordinary” to claim that God exists? Isn’t it even more extraordinary to claim that nothing created everything?
In the end, the best we could hope for was the ability to challenge Charles’ requirement for proof or overwhelming evidence of God’s existence. I told him about the truths of Romans 1:18-21 – “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 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.” Charles doesn’t have the proof he demands, but he has all the evidence he needs, and he will be held accountable for rejecting it.
Charles didn’t disagree when I guessed that he has focused only on evidence that discredits Christianity. I challenged him to give attention to evidence in support of Christianity, and gave him a copy of Josh McDowell’s “More Than A Carpenter”. I think deep down he doesn’t want to believe in God and doesn’t even want to consider evidence in support of His existence, so I believe it will be a miracle if he reads it. But, then again, I believe in miracles.