Evangelizing atheists

I have spent a lot of time on internet forums debating atheists and trying to convince them that God exists and the Bible is true.  I usually tried to show them that the existence of God is the only logical explanation for the existence of the universe and I pointed out scientific evidence that shows that the theory of evolution can’t be true.  However I have come to believe that I was going about this in the wrong way.  This conclusion is based on hearing two former atheists tell how they became Christians.

The first is someone I know personally.  He had a long conversation with a pastor which ended with the pastor explaining to him how to be saved.   He said he was an atheist and didn’t believe in God, and that ended the conversation.

Over the next few days thoughts about God kept entering his mind and he came to the conclusion that there really was a God.  Since the pastor had told him how to become a Christian he knew what he needed to do and so was saved.

Later I read an online account by a former atheist who told how she became a Christian.

Two weeks ago I was visiting with one of my clients (I work in disability support) and her Pastor stopped by. We got talking about this and that and I was suddenly moved to tears and felt like I was literally being tapped on the shoulder and asked to follow Jesus. I went home and began to read a pamphlet the Pastor gave me that explained why there was good and evil in the world. Then I started to read the New Testament because I felt like Jesus was reaching out to me and I wanted to know his story and teachings.

I have never felt such serenity and optimism in my life as in this last week or so. I have laid down my burden of sin and accepted a new loving presence into my body. I look to Christ for the example of how to live my life and interact with my fellow man. If I always ask myself “what would He do?” I have my answer for every situation that can cross my path. What a blessing in this crazy modern world!

Neither of these people was convinced of the  existence of God because of a logical argument.  In both cases someone simply explained the gospel to them and they came to believe it.

There is one more factor that isn’t mentioned.  I personally knew the pastor involved in the first case and I am certain that after his conversation he spent time praying about it.  I don’t know any of the people involved in the second case but I think it is very likely that the pastor involved prayed too.

Most of the time I have spent debating atheists has been wasted because I failed to take one fact into consideration.

If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4

Those who reject the truth do so because Satan, the god of this world, has blinded them.  You can’t give sight to a blind person by reasoning with him or debating him.  Only God can enable such a person to see the truth.  Here is how the Bible says we should approach such people.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5

I was relying on my own knowledge and wisdom to try to convince atheists of the truth but it is only the power of the Holy Spirit that can convert people.  The first step to converting an atheist or any other unbeliever is to give him all the information that he needs.  Sometimes this includes pointing out the scientific evidence that supports the Bible but we only need to give him the information and not get into a debate about whether or not it is true.   After that we should pray that God will open his eyes so he will believe the truth.

There is a saying: “When all else fails go back and read the instructions.”  This is very good advice, especially when the instructions are found in the Bible.

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Posted on September 3, 2016, in evangelism, practical lessons, salvation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. A good friend of mine never really saw the power of God. He knew that God doesn’t change and the OT God wasn’t afraid to raise up an army, cause natural disasters, or wrack up the body count with famine and plagues – yet when it comes to how things are – we don’t really see God taking the credit for any mass casualty event, natural disasters are easily explained, and people are the ones destroying things freely. He didn’t buy the “Well, just you wait until Revelation …” perspective because a consistent unchanging God would be just as destructive all the time.

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    • God is the real power behind the climate change everybody is so concerned about.

      https://clydeherrin.wordpress.com/2015/09/25/climate-change-2/

      If more people understood this they would realize that we can affect climate change by changing our relationship with God.

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      • You talk about the California drought in that post – it’s not dissimilar from the Dust Bowl – which was exacerbated by flawed farming techniques. Back then, praying for rain was what pretty much everyone did for a decade – and it did them little good. They were religious, had a right relationship with God, but the Dust Bowl turned fertile land into a desert, turned plenty into famine, and on top of that – killed their children with dust pneumonia. Remember the story about the Ohio River catching fire because of pollution? It wasn’t God’s judgement, but human negligence. We can sit back and hope God will fix everything, clean up pollution, and fill up every hungry child. Or we can volunteer to pick up the trash along the highway, give our time to help food pantries organize and give out groceries, and choose to leave this world better than when we found it. Somehow, I think God will get the credit either way – for anything and everything good and bad – but when it comes down to it – it’s people that make a difference day in and day out in the communities where they’re at.

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  2. And there is no arrogance or self-righteousnes in thinking those who disagree are possessed.

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    • I don’t believe that those who reject the truth are possessed, only that they have been blinded by Satan. I remember the time before I became a Christian when I was in that condition myself.

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  3. Oh, amen! I like this so much. Just read the instruction manual, it explains everything. 🙂

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  4. It’s not a bad theory, but doesn’t account for the people who are atheists precisely because they were Christians. In many cases devout members of the clergy even. People who know the gospel, who prayed about their faith, who have other people praying for them. It seems the Holy Spirit is sleeping on the job for a whole lot of people who are actively “chasing God.”

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    • Not everyone who claims to be a Christian has really been born again. It isn’t enough to have an intellectual knowledge of the facts about salvation. It is necessary to acknowledge your own sinfulness and inability to save yourself and put your faith in Jesus Christ. Many who have professed to believe Christ and are even serving as pastors have never taken this step and Satan has blinded them to their condition. When they realize their unbelief and openly profess to be atheists they are actually ceasing to be hypocrites and starting to be honest about what they really believe. Here is what the apostle John said about such people:

      They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
      (1 John 2:19 ESV)

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      • Ahh, the no true Scotsman approach, Boring, but not unexpected. And you know what was in their hearts? You are going to say that after years of earnestly seeking God, in many cases devoting their lives to studying the bible and “bringing others to God” you are just going to write them off as hypocrites? And when they say to you “no, I was a Christian, I was Pursuing God, I recognized I was a sinner, I accepted Jesus’s salvation” they are what? Deceived? Or just lying to you because what, they are atheists and just want to see you renounce your faith too?

        You are also implying that Satan’s power to deceive is greater than the Holy Spirit’s power to work in the lives of those who earnestly desire to follow Christ. Seems a little blasphemous to me.

        Are you confident you have adequately acknowledged your own sinfulness and need of salvation? Are you sure that you are not holding a small piece of yourself back that you have really and truly taken that step and that Satan hasn’t blinded you to your condition. Saying things like that is a really convenient way of accounting for people who leave the faith, because what true* Christian would do that? But it should be down right terrifying for you. Before the world began God wrote the names of the saved in the book of life and there is nothing you can do to be saved. The Holy Spirit has to bring you to god (as you said). And even asking Jesus for salvation isn’t adequate because you may be holding a small part of yourself back and blinded to your condition by Satan (as you said).

        Seems by your logic you have no way of knowing if you’re a true believer or not, which is a very Calvinist notion, but I don’t think that was your intent. I’d be careful Clyde, you just might wake up one day and realize that you’ve been a hypocrite this whole time too.

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        • i can’t see what is in the hearts of other people but God can. He knows who is a true Scotsman and who isn’t; he knows who is a true Christian and who isn’t. When he tells me someone isn’t really a believer I have no choice but to believe him.

          God has promised that whoever seeks him will find him, but we are all capable of deceiving ourselves as well as deceiving others. A person may think he is seeking God when in fact he is only seeking the benefits he will experience from believing in God. Someone like that may convince himself and others that he is truly a believer and yet later fall away from the truth and deny it.

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          • It’s convenient that “seeking God” isn’t something you can quantify or measure so you can dismiss those who leave the faith as never truly having been in the faith without ever knowing what was in their hearts.

            If you seek God you will find him, but only if you do it in this narrowly prescribed “right” way, and you can’t have any ulterior motives, even ulterior motives that you are not aware of because Satan has made you deceive yourself. And actually you can’t even really seek God because God has to draw you too him to start with.

            You must be so fortunate that God is drawing you too him (I hope you haven’t been deceived. Man, wouldn’t that suck). It’s unfortunate that he isn’t drawing me. I mean losing my free will and being forced to worship a genocidal maniac for all eternity has its downsides, but not being tortured forever has its positives to be sure.

            Of course the Bible tells us we actually can recognize Christians by the fruit they will bear in Matthew 7:16, and what those fruits are in Galatians 5:22. Now if a few years back if you had asked me to name the people who most represented those values, both are outspoken atheists now. Seems like a bit of a conundrum.

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