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Atheist Tuesday: The Most Powerful Christian Argument

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A non-Christian named Whateverman wrote this comment from my post of August 24, 2010, “The Fool Speaketh.” Please read my reply to him following.

“Let’s assume that instead of atheists rejecting ideas which are illogical or unsound, Steve’s right: atheists are simply dead to the things of God. If this were so, then evangelism would be a waste of time; it’d be like throwing a tennis ball against concrete and wondering why it bounced back.

“Yes yes, the Bible tells you to spread the word despite the fact that people are going to be unable to hear/understand it. What really confuses me is that evangelists like Steve and some of his fans here often try to defend what they say and how they say it.”

There is another reason why Christians share their message with others beside the fact that we are told to (though that should be the primary reason): It’s because…

It’s because we trust in the power of God’s Word.

Yes, we are told to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have,” (1 Peter 3:15)—but many times those answers are not good enough for the unbeliever.

A Christian’s appeal to an all-powerful God as the reason for the beginning of everything is considered simplistic and superstitious to a “thinking” atheist. For a believer to acknowledge that all created things must have a Creator is to frame the argument wrongly according to the skeptic (Who says that this is creation?). And to point out that there is wonderful design to all things because of a Designer leads only to the evolutionary response: “It only appears to be designed.”

So what’s a disciple of Christ to do when confronted with daily antagonistic refutations of his faith?

Preach the Word.

The Word has two effects on a person: a hardening of the heart, or a softening of the heart: Pharaoh, in the account of the 10 plagues in the book of Exodus, shows how God uses His Word to bring about His purposes in hardening a heart for His glory. The Ninevites repenting in response to the preaching of Jonah demonstrates how God softens hearts for His glory. (Jonah 3:3-10)

In the New Testament, Acts 17, Paul’s arguments for a Savior were met with much derision while preaching the Good News to the philosophers of his day, some responding with “What is this babbler trying to say?” and “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” Some even sneered (a hardening of hearts). But others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” A few men even became followers of Paul and believed (a softening of hearts).

Here’s why:

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

God’s Word is always the right way to go.

If you don’t know what to say to an atheist because he’s smarter than you, bigger than you, brasher or just plain meaner than you, then preach the Word. God will use it one way or the other—to harden hearts, to soften hearts.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrew 4:12)

Why rely on foolish and senseless disputations that will only lead to more rebuttals,  more frustrations, more snickers and eye-rollings, and more foolish talk and senseless disputations from the “enlightened” set?

Preach the Word.

Sometimes, the best Christian argument is…none at all!

34 Comments

  1. Kind of hard for Pharoh’s heart to not get hardened considering God gave the Egyptians the plagues and all. It must have been great to be an Egyptian in that time… bloody rivers, boils, locusts, oh and having my first born son and maybe only son getting struck down by a ‘loving’ God. Couldn’t God have given the hardened hearted pharoh, a hard hearted heart attack? Or temporarily blinded the Egyptians so that the slaves could go free? A few days of blindness, not many would get hurt, and the slaves could put a lot of distance between Egypt and the promised land.

  2. From what you say, there is no reason to not be a sign-guy. In fact, it doesn’t really matter what you do when you preach – you could be Westboro Baptist. If you save a few, ‘Yay, God softened their hearts for His glory!’ If you lose a few, ‘Yay, God hardened their hearts for His glory!’

    Yes, we are told to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have,” (1 Peter 3:15)—but many times those answers are not good enough for the unbeliever.

    And this is our fault? We tell you why we think an argument is weak.

    For a believer to acknowledge that all created things must have a Creator is to frame the argument wrongly according to the skeptic (Who says that this is creation?).

    Well, it is begging the question. And even if we agreed that the universe was ‘created’ and didn’t arise naturally, it points to your Creator God as much as it points to any other creator god.

    And to point out that there is wonderful design to all things because of a Designer leads only to the evolutionary response: “It only appears to be designed.”

    You do know what pareidolia is, right? It is a fact that humans see design even where there is none. We are design-seeing, pattern-seeking animals. It’s just one of the things we’re really good at!

  3. Vintango, don’t you see, if God hadn’t hardened Pharaohs heart repeatedly and needlessly killed all the babies, and animals and soldiers then the dead Egyptians wouldn’t have been able to see how loving God is.

  4. Note: Whateverman is not an atheist; he’s a deist.

  5. Yes of course, just like how our parents show us their love when they mercilessly beat up children who are mean to us, and murder their brothers as a way of teaching them a lesson, they are loving parents after all.

  6. Steve, you didn’t answer my question from two weeks back: what is the point of it all?

    I did a like of reflection on my own worldview this week, and I can see your point, only so far. This is important to me: what is the endgame here? What is our function? I see no sense following something that is just as pointless as what I follow now.

    • Garrett,

      You can make a real difference for humanity when you believe in the One True God. Christianty has brought hospitals, universities… Christmas (of course, by co-opting a pagan holiday).

      You have a real realtionship with God; you are no longer His enemy!

      And you get Heaven. HEAVEN!

      Good sincere question. Thanks for asking! 🙂

  7. God showed his love by killing the first born children of Egypt, the analogy I was trying to make is that our loving parents should do the same thing to bullies or people that oppress us. Kill their first born children and they’ll think twice about enslaving, beating up, or hurting us in the future.

  8. Thank you for that response, Steve.

    I think you’ve painted an even more confusing picture of why/how you preach. For example, if atheists’ hearts are hardened to the things of God, this supposedly explains your critics here aren’t being convinced by what you say. On the other hand, above you claim that scripture can soften hearts as well as harden them – so it would appear that you DO believe you can convince people with it.

    In other words, you can’t have it both ways. Either “atheists” can’t accept scripture because their hearts are hardened, or scripture can unharden those hearts. If it’s the former, then evangelizing to them is useless; if it’s the latter, then your inability to convince those people is a reflection of what YOU say and how YOU say it.

    However, all this aside, I really would like you to answer the italicized text in my comment you quoted above, as you didn’t actually address it. Evangelicals don’t merely quote scripture – they often appeal to reason and logic. They use metaphor to imply things, and then explain how scripture addresses those implications.

    To me, this seems like a tacit admission that Evangelicals don’t trust scripture to be powerful enough to convince people. If it *was* that powerful, there’d be no attempt to reason or explain things; the preacher would simply quote scripture until he got tired, and then call it a day with a sense of satisfaction.

    When preaching scripture to people, Steve, why do you try to reason with them?

    PS. I appreciate the answer above, even though I claimed it didn’t answer the question.

  9. Okay – I think I’m getting this:

    1- There are children of God and enemies of God. If you preach to someone and they believe you, they are a child of God. If you preach to someone and they question you, they are an enemy of God and don’t deserve an answer.

    Of course, not all people who believe you are really children of God, because they may be false converts. But you don’t need to follow up on anyone to see if your preaching is effective, because the children of God won’t need follow-ups and the false converts are really enemies of God. (That was from Ray Comfort’s pdf).

    2- No matter how you preach, God will use it to either soften a person’s heart (for His glory) or harden a person’s heart (for His glory). So, all this fuss about sign-guys is misplaced, since if someone is turned off by a sign-guy, it is really God hardening that person’s heart (for His glory).

    3- Revelation trumps evidence. If the Bible says all humans descended from Noah, than all humans descended from Noah, including everyone living in southeast Asia during and immediately after the flood. Any evidence counter to your particular interpretation of the Bible is a lie and must be rejected.

    4- Questions from unbelievers (enemies of God) are not to be answered as all questions from enemies of God are rabbit trails. However, pretending to answer a question and shifting to preaching is encouraged.

    5- Everything good came from Christianity and everything bad came from everyone else. If evidence doesn’t support that assertion, remember that contrary evidence is from secular sources and are therefore lies.

  10. No Steve, that is not my question. You are just referring to the material world, but that’s irrelevant compared to eternity. What is our purpose? I always hear about how life is so meaningless under an atheistic worldview, and it may be true, but what is our purpose in heaven? Life is no more meaningful if its all just to go to a meaningless afterlife.

  11. Vintango,

    Those plagues happened BECAUSE Pharoah REPEATEDLY refused to allow God’s people to go out into the desert to worship their God. Each time he refused, God caused the Egyptians to suffer another plague or punishment.

    Regarding your suggestion that God could’ve “temporarily blinded the Egyptians so that the slaves could go free”, HE is the Almighty God, who created the heavens, the earth, and everything in them and, since we are all His creation, it is not for US to judge what HE does. HE will judge the right and fitting “punishment” for a hardened heart.

  12. To Whateverman:

    You wrote: In other words, you can’t have it both ways. Either “atheists” can’t accept scripture because their hearts are hardened, or scripture can unharden those hearts. If it’s the former, then evangelizing to them is useless; if it’s the latter, then your inability to convince those people is a reflection of what YOU say and how YOU say it.

    Me: Yes, Scripture can unharden the hardest of hearts, no matter how we say it, because it is the power of God unto salvation. Still, we should try to be gentle and respectful.

    You: Evangelicals don’t merely quote scripture – they often appeal to reason and logic. They use metaphor to imply things, and then explain how scripture addresses those implications.

    To me, this seems like a tacit admission that Evangelicals don’t trust scripture to be powerful enough to convince people. If it *was* that powerful, there’d be no attempt to reason or explain things; the preacher would simply quote scripture until he got tired, and then call it a day with a sense of satisfaction.

    Me: That may be true for some, or possibly most evangelicals, but I can’t speak for them. I do try to primarily preach the Word.

    You: When preaching scripture to people, Steve, why do you try to reason with them?

    Me: For the most part I don’t try to reason with people apart from pointing to the obvious, like Creation and design. It’s not unreasonable to proclaim that God authored everything.

    I hope this is somewhat helpful!

  13. To Perdita and Garrett: I’ll answer you later tonight.

  14. Steve wrote: “I do try to primarily preach the Word.” and “For the most part I don’t try to reason with people…

    This might be true now, but definitely was not true when I first arrived at this blog. I think you might be retconning, Steve.

  15. SeedSowerJoy wrote: “Those plagues happened BECAUSE Pharoah REPEATEDLY refused to allow God’s people to go out into the desert to worship their God.

    And when he (Pharoah) wanted to change his mind, God wouldn’t let him; God hardened Pharoah’s heart, right?

    So, therefore, God refused to allow His people to go out into the desert to worship Him, and Pharoah was just his proxy.

    Exodus 4:21

    So much for this “free will” thing.

  16. For those of you who don’t like to click on links, even Christian ones, here is the scripture:

    Exodus 4:21

    And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.

    (Emphasis mine)

  17. SeedSowerJoy God *repeatedly* hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let the Israelites go, so that the destruction he caused to Egypt would show how powerful God is. This is stated quite clearly in Exodus.

  18. At SeedSowerJoy:

    Wow. You’re right I can’t question him, perhaps I’ll ask him on judgement day why he commanded man that ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ when he himself thought it’d be a grand idea to punish the Egyptian PEOPLE for what their leader did, its not like the Egyptian people VOTED for the Pharoh, he is their king and spirital leader, brought to power by heredity, the people had nothing to do with it. Why kill their children? I mean that’s one example, the God of the old testament was cruel and vindictive. That’s why the early christian church… you know… back in Roman times… wanted to divorce the new testament from the Old, because of stuff like this. Jonah and the Whale, Adam and Eve, its fantastical writing and bad story telling which is an insult to everything we know about the world. All I’m saying is that if God is all power, and can do anything, why not just kill Pharoh… God wants to protect his people why not deliver them from Egypt himself? He parted the RED SEA… that’s pretty divine don’t you think? Gave the Hebrews bread in the desert? Even gave them rules to live by and a promised land. Why play it out like that? Maybe he was afraid of the Egyptian gods?

  19. Perdita writes and I respond in BOLD.

    1- There are children of God and enemies of God. If you preach to someone and they believe you, they are a child of God. YES! If you preach to someone and they question you, they are an enemy of God and don’t deserve an answer. NO!

    Of course, not all people who believe you are really children of God, because they may be false converts. YES! But you don’t need to follow up on anyone to see if your preaching is effective, because the children of God won’t need follow-ups and the false converts are really enemies of God. (That was from Ray Comfort’s pdf). YES. If people are truly saved they don’t need to be followed up on. It is still a good idea. False converts are enemies of God because they aren’t saved!

    2- No matter how you preach, God will use it to either soften a person’s heart (for His glory) or harden a person’s heart (for His glory). So, all this fuss about sign-guys is misplaced, since if someone is turned off by a sign-guy, it is really God hardening that person’s heart (for His glory).
    YES! Still, isn’t it better to be polite? Also, certain sign guys preach a different doctrine of salvation which means they preach a “different” Jesus, which means people may believe a lie. Is God sovereign? Of course. But down here, we have responsibility.

    3- Revelation trumps evidence. If the Bible says all humans descended from Noah, than all humans descended from Noah, including everyone living in southeast Asia during and immediately after the flood. Any evidence counter to your particular interpretation of the Bible is a lie and must be rejected. YES! Very good, I might add.

    4- Questions from unbelievers (enemies of God) are not to be answered as all questions from enemies of God are rabbit trails. Not necessarily so. However, pretending to answer a question and shifting to preaching is encouraged. The I. Q. test is a lot of fun! The vast majority of people who take it laugh heartily. An upcoming video will show this.

    5- Everything good came from Christianity and everything bad came from everyone else. Of course not. That’s silly! If evidence doesn’t support that assertion, remember that contrary evidence is from secular sources and are therefore lies. Again, not necessarily so.

  20. Garrett wrote: No Steve, that is not my question. You are just referring to the material world, but that’s irrelevant compared to eternity. What is our purpose? I always hear about how life is so meaningless under an atheistic worldview, and it may be true, but what is our purpose in heaven? Life is no more meaningful if its all just to go to a meaningless afterlife.

    You’ll have to admit that whatever it is (and “it” includes no more crying or pain, etc.), it will sure be a whole lot better than Hell.

  21. Ehh the hardening of Pharoh’s heart can be interpreted in a few ways, it doesn’t mean that God actually went in and made Pharoh act like I —–, I think it meant that God’s actions hardened Pharoh’s heart, I mean what kind of story would that be if God decided to make Pharoh cruel so he could slaughter his people with plagues. Pastor Steve could you write an article about why God chooses to kill people? I’d be interested to hear your take on this matter, and engage in civil debate.

  22. Steve…are you telling me you have no idea what reason there is for you, for us, to exist?

  23. Steve, thanks for your straight forward answers. Re: Number 4. this was actually about how you and Ray write blog posts and not the I.Q. test. So, when I do get an answer I do appreciate it.

  24. Thanks again for the responses, Steve.

  25. Hey pastor Steve
    Listen… I read alot of comments on here that, simply put, I consider rude and just closed minded… (not from you pastor Steve) but from alot of these other guys that have left you comments. I know they are lost OR something but they know what you are saying and they act like they don’t even understand. All they are doing is reaching for the air —
    Hey pastor Steve– I love you man… and I think you are doing great. (I mean who else will preach in a wendys.. and pastor a huge church. ) Pastor, keep up the good work. You are reaching alot of people. Love you pastor.
    P.Love

  26. Steve…why haven’t you answered my question?

  27. And then how you justify being a pick & mix Christian? still waiting for that one too.

  28. That’s cool Steve, I’m a big fan of debate as long as its civil, seems like there are a few here that are as well, though sometimes it seems to come off as snide or mean spirited.

  29. Regarding your suggestion that God could’ve “temporarily blinded the Egyptians so that the slaves could go free”, HE is the Almighty God, who created the heavens, the earth, and everything in them and, since we are all His creation, it is not for US to judge what HE does. HE will judge the right and fitting “punishment” for a hardened heart.

    In other words, “might makes right”.

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