As an ex-atheist, I have the unique vantage point necessary to say this: popular Christianity in America has failed atheists and has failed the rational seeker.
Now, I want to say that this will likely be a very cutting post, but I do mean this from a place of love, saying “We need to be better,” for our own sakes, for the sake of those who don’t personally know Christ, and for Jesus’s sake as well.
Okay, let’s dive into what I really mean.
I think that it should be a source of personal shame for us as Christians (temporary, of course) that I, as an atheist looking in – would be able to believe such a ludicrous statement as “Christianity has no basis in rational thought whatsoever.” And yet, I did.
Granted, if I had been a little more intellectually honest, I should have explored the viewpoints of the opposing side and hear their arguments for what they believe.
But, here’s the thing:
I thought that there were none. I thought that Christianity genuinely had no factual basis or any sort of evidential support whatsoever. This is the view of Christianity seen from those who have no experience with the church. I saw Christianity as something that people only believed because they got indoctrinated as children, or because it was the cultural thing to do.
This perception NEEDS to change.
Okay, maybe I came on a little strong there. But I genuinely think that this is a bona fide real problem that is affecting our witness to those around us, and which largely has the power to make or break the believability of Christianity as a whole.
The believability of Christianity is pretty damn important.
Before I continue, let me define Christianity, as its rational belief components:
- A God exists who created the universe
- This God interacts with his creation and revealed his nature to people through interactions with people, which were recorded through Scripture.
- Jesus of Nazareth was born, lived among us, and spent 3 years teaching about the Kingdom of God, performing miracles, and making divine claims about himself.
- He then was crucified by the Romans, died, and was buried in Joseph’s tomb.
- On the third day, according to the Scriptures, he rose from the dead.
- After his resurrection, he appeared to many witnesses (One of the times had over 500 witnesses) who he commissioned to be witnesses of the things they had seen and heard.
- These witnesses wrote divinely inspired Scripture as well.
- The Bible was formed as a compilation of divinely inspired Scripture, and is reliable, being the very word of God.
Okay, now I’m gonna ask a tough question. How many times have you ever heard any of these things proved to you?
Then why did you believe?
Most of us will admit that we came to Christ for emotional reasons or that we were simply raised believing this. Rarely do people offer rational, logical, scientific, historical evidence for why we believe.
Well, is there any wonder we think it’s a marvel when atheists come to Christ??
Now, I didn’t say of this to get you to doubt your faith. I said this to get you to investigate. To find reasons why you believe what you do. (Called Apologetics). And to be able to carry out the command of the Holy Spirit through Peter:
1 Peter 3:15-16 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you why you have this hope. Our go-to answer to this is testimony. Unfortunately, testimony, while a good tool, is not an effective way to convince atheists that something that they think is false is actually true.
Everyone has a testimony. Cultists have testimonies. Buddhists have testimonies. Muslims have testimonies. Heck, even atheists have testimonies.
What makes Christianity different?
Not that it works for you. Not that it fixes your life and makes you happier. Not that it gives you peace in your heart.
Christianity is different because it’s true. Now we just gotta prove it.
If that rubs you the wrong way, read this: (Truth is Controversial. So was Jesus).
There is a significant biblical case against the idea of believing with no proof. God knows that belief doesn’t happen without adequate proof.
The easiest way to prove that is to look at the word itself.
The Greek word translated as “Faith” in our Bibles is “Pistos.”
The easiest way to define Pistos is “Trustworthy.” If you have a friend who you can trust with a big secret, they are a Pistos friend. You have Pistos every time you sit in a chair – that the chair’s not gonna immediately crumble beneath you. When you’re trying to climb a rickety ladder that looks like it could fall apart at any second, the ladder lacks Pistos. You have Pistos in your credit card company that when you pay your monthly statement. You have faith that the payment’s gonna go through.
What we normally call Faith – is actually something that you have a reason to trust.
What does it mean to have Pistos (Faith) in God, then?
Well, it means that you have a reason to trust him! He’s proved himself trustworthy, since he keeps all his promises and cannot lie.
But no one ever has Pistos in something for no reason. You can’t trust something that you know literally nothing about. That’s why people are afraid of the dark! If you have no reason to trust someone, you can’t have Pistos in them. Likewise, if you have no reason to believe that someone exists, you certainly can’t trust them!
Yet God knows this, so he provides people with reasons to believe:
John 10:37-38 “Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”
Acts 17:2-3 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said.
Acts 18:28 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed.28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.
So there are multiple different categories of proof that God offers:
- Miracles and Visions (The Gospels, Acts, John 10:37-38)
- Proving Jesus is the Messiah using the Scriptures (Acts 17:2-3, Acts 18:28)
- Jesus being the exact imprint of God’s character
- Holy Spirit empowerment to believe
And now, most lately: Scientific, Historical, and Philosophical Evidence. (Apologetics)
Okay! So, it’s not actually my intention that everyone learn apologetics.
I’m aware that Apologetics are a lot to get into – they require an affinity for knowledge and rational thought. (Which not everyone has, and I’m cool with that. God has gifted us each in different ways).
But, here’s my call to action for us: If you can, do so. Even if it won’t come naturally to you.
If you can, let the reasons you offer for believing in Jesus be ones that resonate with your audience. (For atheists, it is apologetics. For others, it may be testimony).
Regardless, this is useful to have in your toolkit. In my opinion, Apologetics makes people a lot less likely to fall away from following Christ when they hit difficult times. There have been times in my life so agonizingly awful that the only thing that kept me going and believing in Jesus were the apologetic arguments I knew – I knew he was real, and I knew Christianity was the truth. That’s what got me through that season.
Let’s circle back and end this where we started:
Let’s give atheists and the world a reason to believe that our faith is a rational, reasonable faith. We can give our beliefs credibility by presenting tangible, reasonable proof that our claims are true. That the gospel is true. That Jesus is who he says he is.
I said earlier that the believability of Christianity is crucial.
Salvation comes through faith and trust in Jesus Christ as king over our lives, and belief that God raised him from the dead. God doesn’t expect any of us to believe without proof.
That’s why we need apologetics.
Love you all,
PS: Leave a comment down below if you have any requests for my next couple posts! I’m open to new options.