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An Atheist Analogy: “The Relaxing Man”

| 18 Comments

Several weeks back I wrote an analogy titled The  Drowning Woman that illustrates why our evangelists go to such drastic extremes (like preaching atop trash cans and in elevators) to try and save some from Hell. The Christians agreed that it was an accurate metaphor, while, unsurprisingly, the atheists did not, dismissing what we do as “Jerky Evangelism.” The post received over 130 comments, so it was quite controversial. (Read “The Drowning Woman” by clicking here).

One man, under the pseudonym Quasar, wrote his own analogy from the atheist’s viewpoint. Read it and respond. Does he have a valid point or is he way off the mark?

Here’s what Quasar wrote:

From your perspective, the analogy is valid. You honestly believe there is a sea and that the woman is drowning in it. From our perspective:

We are sitting on a grassy field in the middle of a park casually reading a novel, when suddenly a car screeches to a halt next to us, and a random guy in speedos and a lifeguard t-shirt leans out. He shouts “Are you okay?” in a very loud voice.

“Um… yeah, we’re okay,” we reply somewhat nervously.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, we’re good,” we say, raising an eyebrow and putting the book down on the ground next to us.

Suddenly, he dives out of the car in a perfect swan-dive. We watch in astonishment as he flails about on the grass, miming a breaststroke, screaming at us. “I’m coming to save you!”

As his crazy random movements slowly bring him closer to us purely by accident, we lean away from him and say “I told you I’m good… what are you doing?”

“Don’t worry, I’m almost there!” he shouts madly.

Confused, and slightly worried by this weird behavior, we go to stand up, when the man grabs us by our hand. Shocked, we bat him away.

The situation goes from bad to worse as the apparently insane man starts grabbing at us, pulling at our clothes. Slapping him away, we try to escape his clutches, only to have him grab us by our hair, put us into a painful headlock, and start dragging us towards the car.

Now fearing for our life, we continue to struggle, kicking and screaming for help. The man continues to violently drag us toward the car, pulling us into the open door. Using the door to kick off, we manage to get a hand free and viciously gouge at his eyes, biting at the hand around our face as we do so.

The man lets go, and we run some distance away from the car. A quick glance over our shoulder reveals he’s not watching us run: he’s sitting in the car staring at the ground in front of him with a sad and horrified expression on his face.

Catching our breath, heart still racing and ready to run if the man makes any move towards us, we watch as a similar car pulls up next to the first. The passengers in this car frown at the man and start criticizing.

“You could have handled that a whole lot better,” one suggested.

“Yeah. We find that if you talk to them for a bit, they don’t react so violently.”

Watching in disbelief, we realize that these people are suggesting better ways to drag someone into their car. They must be some sort of cult, or criminal organization. We back away, hoping not to attract their attention.

Another car pulls up.

“You’re a jerk!” shouts one of the passengers in the second car. “That was really rude. You should have left him alone!”

Rude? we think. Are you kidding me! He assaulted me and tried to drag me into his car!

The guy who apparently thought he was a lifeguard listened with an exasperated look on his face, and appeared to give it some thought. We stood in the middle distance, heart still racing from the terrifying ordeal we had just endured, wondering what sort of drugs he was on and hoping someone sane had called the police by now.

Finally, the lifeguard raises his head and says, “I’m a lifeguard. I do what I can to save people.”

18 Comments

  1. Hi Steve, it’s Kelli from the Ambassador’s Academy #16 (I’m the one who gave you the funny face after passing out million dollar bills in the bar @ Huntington Beach!). Could you please send me the starter materials for doing open air and stoplight preaching? Thank you. You were a great blessing to me this week. I want train people from my church to do the same in the SF Bay Area. God Bless!!!!

  2. The analogy breaks down because he paints a picture where the lifeguard thinks he is in water when it is really a grassy hill. As if the lifeguards view of reality is completely wrong. The problem is that every person knows with 100% certainty that they will die one day. The lifeguards know it just as well as the people they are trying to save. They both have the same view of their surroundings, the difference lies in their understanding of the drowning condition. The lifeguard thinks it’s a terrible thing to drown because there exists a lifeboat that would save them. The drowning person thinks everyone one the lifeboat is going to drown anyways so he sees no point in getting on the boat.

  3. Hey Steve it’s Zack from Academy #16! Please put me in the one a day club and send me any information to help an evangelism team get started in my area!

    Thanks!

  4. Jason wrote: “The drowning person thinks everyone one the lifeboat is going to drown anyways so he sees no point in getting on the boat.

    Please read the analogy again; the person is not drowning; they are sitting in a grassy field. The person does not see a lifeboat, whether or not the lifeboat will drown.

    They are just relaxing in a grassy field, yet this other person (the lifeguard) thinks that the person is drowning in the ocean.

    We all agree that we’ll all die one day. You claim that something that we cannot see will happen, and that’s why you’re trying to save us.

    We do not see that. We see a grassy field, not an ocean.

    Therefore, the analogy does not break down. You think it breaks down because you’re trying to view it from the lifeguard’s (reality-estranged) viewpoint.

    As if the lifeguards view of reality is completely wrong.

    No, it’s as if the lifeguard’s view of reality does not at all match the view of reality of the “victim” he’s supposedly trying to save. The point is that you guys, the “lifeguards”, don’t seem to take into account that we have different views of reality, but we can give evidence for the field.

    I have never seen evidence that passed the smallest amount of scrutiny of this ocean you keep talking about.

  5. The life of sin seems like a picnic in a grassy field until the Holy Spirit reveals, through the preaching of the word, that such a life is really more like swimming in raging ocean with the perfect storm of God’s holy law, God’s unrelenting justice and wrath, and man’s sinfulness.

  6. Peter Johnson wrote: “The life of sin seems like a picnic in a grassy field until the Holy Spirit reveals, through the preaching of the word, that such a life is really more like swimming in raging ocean…

    So, I would then ask, “Ok, so where’s the Holy Spirit, and why hasn’t He revealed that to me? Because it still looks like I’m in a grassy field, and there’s a lifeguard telling me that I’m in a raging ocean, but I don’t see it. Therefore, I’m likely to believe that the lifeguard has no idea what he’s talking about, and probably borrowed his “Lifeguard” shirt from a friend.”

    Wow… analogies.

  7. Hi Steve. It’s Sadie from Academy 16. I was on Chad’s team, but I found your determination to share the Gospel very inspiring. I would also like to join the EVERYDAY team, and would love any information you could give me about starting an evangelism team. Thanks!

    To God be the glory!

  8. Pretty good analogy I think.
    Delusional lifeguard could probably be modified to want to be lifeguard.

    I am enjoying siting on the grass looking around at the amazing world.

  9. Nohm is correct that Jason misread the analogy. I would offer this small amendment: Nohm and others are sitting on a grassy field, but it’s a grassy field in the middle of a river in low tide. High tide is Judgment Day and you will drown when the water comes to overtake the grassy field. That’s how I look at it.

  10. Good job, Bizzle. Of course, you are correct. May i further add: The atheist has consumed a bit too much beer and has fallen asleep on the grassy field at low tide….

  11. IMHO,

    I think Quasar’s analogy in the first sentence is perfectly valid:

    “We are sitting on a grassy field in the middle of a park casually reading a novel”

    That is EXACTLY how an unsaved person feels, and exactly what Scripture tells us. They are spiritually blind to their sins and their need of a Savior. Only until the Holy Spirit so chooses to reveal Himself will their blindness ends.

    For over 120 years Noah preached that rain would come and destroy the earth, but no one listened. It is the same today.

    Our job is to pray CONTINUALLY that God will open up the minds of those whom we preach, and then to get out there and preach the word.

    As to the rest of the analogy, that is is his opinion, and in his mind and the minds of other non-believers, that may very well be how they feel. The Gospel is FOOLISHNESS to those who do not believe.

  12. Bizzle wrote:

    Nohm and others are sitting on a grassy field, but it’s a grassy field in the middle of a river in low tide.

    We don’t see this river that you’re talking about.

    Steve wrote:

    The atheist has consumed a bit too much beer and has fallen asleep

    We don’t see this beer that you’re talking about, and we’re wide awake, reading our novel. Therefore, we find your claims that we’ve consumed this “beer”, and that we’ve “fallen asleep”, to be very strange.

    Not as strange as the lifeguard who says that we’re in the ocean, but strange nonetheless.

  13. Well clearly Steve is bringing his A Game… ‘Teh Athiest is drunk!’

  14. Nohm, I just wanted to give you MY perspective of things. I understand you don’t see the river. I get the feeling from Steve’s point of view (and others) that they’d just do what the lifeguard is doing in the analogy.

    More than likely I’d only bring up the river with you if you asked me what the heck the lifeguard was doing.

  15. Bizzle wrote: “Nohm, I just wanted to give you MY perspective of things.

    I completely understand, Bizzle, and I thank you for sharing.

  16. I think the analogy thing may be too much.

    We have FREE speech. We can ask people if they want to talk about life or our preaching. They have INDIVIDUAL rights which allows them to say “yes” or “no”.

    As long as we do not insist when they say “no”, everything is okay. I also like the river analogy at low tide.

    The psychological principle of cognitive dissonance means as the old adage states “a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”.

    Bill Bright used to say you cannot pick green apples. Ripe apples yield to the touch, green ones may come with part of the branch of the tree as they try to hold on. So what is the point of trying to pick a green apple?

    Make an offer. The right of refusal is there.

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