When I was in high school, over 30 years ago, it was extremely rare to meet anyone in our small North Carolina town who was an atheist. I actually did know a few friends who admitted that they were in high school, but it was rare. And those who did admit it often experienced ridicule from other students.
But now, it is not so rare to meet people who proudly declare that they are atheists, even in small-town North Carolina. It has become much more socially acceptable to admit that you do not believe in God at all.
So the chances are good that you will find yourself with a co-worker, neighbor, fellow student or even a family member who does not believe in God. When that happens, what should we do?
The first and most important thing we should do is remember that such people are, in fact, people who have the God-given right to make their own choice. We should respect that choice and their freedom. We should respect them as people and not treat them as deficient or perverted.
Secondly, we should love them. One of the most powerful arguments against the existence of God is the failure of God’s people to show love to others. We are known more for our hatred and legalistic judging than we are for our love. Yet Jesus said that they world would know that we belong to Him by our love.
Third, we shouldn’t feel that we have to know every answer or defend every theological truth to have a conversation about faith. It’s okay to admit that you don’t know the answer or that certain teachings of the Bible are not clear to you. God doesn’t need us to defend Him or answer for Him.
Finally, understand that there is no question about or objection to Christian faith that is new. Atheists have been raising them ever since the church has existed. If you are inclined to understand how Christian scholars have answered some of these objections, then read some materials that will help you understand. Some books that might help are “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis, “The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?” by F. F. Bruce and “Simply Christian” by N.T. Wright. There are many others.
We do not need to be afraid of atheists. We should be praying for the opportunity to demonstrate the true love of Christ and the gospel to everyone. God is never taken by surprise. Trust Him.
Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC