When I was a young Christian, I couldn’t wait until I learned all the arguments so I could defeat any atheist in a debate. Now that I’m an older Christian, I know all the arguments I need to know, yet I rarely, if ever, debate atheists.
To begin with, suppose I could, in the space of an hour, dismantle your entire belief system—whatever that belief system may be. Would you want me to do that to you?
I wouldn’t want someone doing that to me.
Our belief systems form an armor that protects something very vulnerable inside us. To tear apart someone else’s belief system simply because I can would be a form of bullying.
And I’m not a bully.
“Wait a second!” I hear you saying. “Our belief systems have eternal consequences. And some belief systems are wrong.”
Yes, that’s true, and yeah, they are.
But how will I persuade someone to abandon the armor of their current belief system, enter that very vulnerable place where they are intellectually and emotionally defenseless, before they take on a new belief system?
Will I persuade them by arguing or debating with them?
Almost certainly not. Even if I win every one of the debates.
No. But I may persuade them by helping them feel safe enough to give God a try.
In the Psalms, David writes, “Taste and see! God is good.” (Psalm 34:8)
Why do people reject God?
In their minds, they tell themselves they have looked at the evidence, and the evidence supports living in a universe without God.
But at a deeper level, here’s the real reason: They don’t feel safe with God.
And I don’t blame them to be honest with you. Almost all of us have life experiences that seem to tell us God is a monster. Figuring out that He’s not a monster is a journey for each of us.
I used to think my dad was a monster. But over time, I figured out that he wasn’t. He was a broken man trying to be whole just like all the rest of us, but he was a good guy who was trying his best. I’m grateful he was my dad, and I look forward to being reunited with him in heaven.
Our journey with God takes us through a similar process.
As we begin to experience the real God, His goodness and His love melt away all these defenses we no longer need. We no longer need to “prove” He doesn’t exist because here He is, right in front of us.
Maybe this is why Paul says to Timothy, “Don’t argue with people. That destroys relationships. Instead, be kind to everyone. Don’t take it personally when people insult you. Instead, gently help others see the possibilities of truth, hoping that God will empower them to experience the change in perspective that will open up the real world of His love.” (My paraphrase of 2 Timothy 2:23-25.)
Would I ever debate an atheist?
I don’t know.
For the reasons outlined, I don’t really want to. I just want to be a friend.
Have a great week!