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Atheist Tuesday: The Drowning Woman

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Our evangelism teams preach the Gospel in many ways: from the tops of walls to inside elevators; at bus stops, inside restaurants, outside beer gardens, in front of the Department of Motor Vehicles and outside Social Security offices. “Why?” some would ask. In answer to that question, and in response to a few insults directed at me after posting two articles called “The Shaadaap! Game” and “Jerky Evangelism,” here’s my response.

A man was out sailing just off the coast of the Big Island when he saw what appeared to be a woman swimming next to her capsized catamaran.

“Are you okay?” he shouted as he slowly sailed by.

“I’m good,” she replied.

“You sure?” he asked again.

“I’m very good!” she assured him.

Having been a lifeguard for many years in Hawaii, he was not convinced. He noticed that she was not really swimming, but just trying to keep her head above water. He saw the strain on her face and the slight panic in her eyes. Anchoring his boat, the lifeguard dove in and made his way toward the oblivious—or self-deceived—woman. “I’m coming to save you,” he called out between the swells.

“I—told—you—I’m—good,” she sputtered, inhaling a mouthful of water.

“Don’t worry,” the lifeguard shouted, “I’m almost there.” He swam furiously, knowing there wasn’t much time before she disappeared beneath the waves.

He reached out to grab her arm but the excited woman batted it away. As he grabbed her roughly with both hands, she escaped his grip, flailed, then slapped at him. Tugging at her hair, he yanked once, pulling her toward him. He put her in a headlock, then tried pulling her to his vessel while swimming on his back.

The drowning woman continued to kick and scream; she hit and clawed in her fury, yet the lifeguard held on even more tightly. He still had her by the throat with one arm, the other holding her hair tightly.

He kicked and kicked and kicked until he pulled her—quite violently— into his craft. She then gouged at his eyes and bit him so hard he had to let go because of the pain.

Under the water she disappeared.

A fishing boat stopped near the sailboat to take in the drama. The fishermen watched the action play out and the rough treatment of the woman as the lifeguard struggled to save her. They watched the rescue, then the death.

After it was over, the crew heaped criticism after criticism upon the lifeguard. “You could have done that a whole lot better,” one suggested.

Another offered, “If you had been swimming alongside her until you got to know her better, she might have listened to you. Then you would have saved her.”

A pleasure cruiser full of  partiers pulled up alongside the sailboat. It’s drunken clients,  senseless and irrational also heaped scorn upon the lifeguard. “You were a real jerk the way you tried to save that lady,” one scolded.

“You were so rude!” another complained. “You should have just let her have her have own personal space.”

The lifeguard listened to everything the fishermen and drunkards said; he thoughtfully considered whether they indeed had a valid point. Then finally, exasperated, he uttered his defense: “I’m a lifeguard. I do what I can to save people.”

Now read an atheist’s response to my analogy called “The Relaxing Man” by clicking here.

136 Comments

  1. Actually, I should have written:

    Because both Christian and non-Christian biblical scholars agree on that issue.

  2. Well, I just find it curious that you could believe what people have said about Paul (e.g. that he wrote that book, that he existed, etc.) but you don’t believe anything that Paul himself said?

  3. Glenn wrote: “Well, I just find it curious that you could believe what people have said about Paul (e.g. that he wrote that book, that he existed, etc.) but you don’t believe anything that Paul himself said?

    Of course, just as you believe that Muhammed existed, that he contributed to (if not wrote) the Qur’an, yet you don’t believe anything that Muhammed himself said.

    Or just as you believe that L. Ron Hubbard existed, that he wrote the main Scientology books and methods, but you don’t believe anything he said.

    Or just as you believe that a person claiming that they were kidnapped by aliens in a UFO exists, but you don’t believe their claims.

    If Paul was saying, “the sky is blue”, I would have no problem believing that. When Paul says “these people believe in God, but lie and say they don’t”, I have a major problem believing it.

    Glenn, it all has to do with the claims, the source, any possible agenda that the source might have, and how closely the claims match my experiences.

    For example:

    Joe: Hi Nohm, I just was walking down the street, and no one was around.

    Nohm: Ok, I believe that.

    Joe: I found a five dollar bill and picked it up.

    Nohm: Ok, I believe that.

    Joe: The five people walking down the street started yelling at me.

    Nohm: Huh, I thought you said no one was around, but whatever. Please continue.

    Joe: One of them pulled out an AK-47 and started dancing with it.

    Nohm: Uhhhh… okay? This is starting to become hard to believe.

    Joe: I threw the five dollar bill at him from 30 feet away and knocked him clean out.

    Nohm: Hrmm, this is really getting hard to believe.

    Joe: Pegasus then showed up and we flew away.

    Nohm: Ok, I think I’ve heard enough.

    So, Glenn, the claim that a Hellenistic Jew named Paul wrote that letter (Romans) is pretty trivial, as it matches with the reality that I know. That is, that people trying to spread their religion, and build up others in the religion, will say that people who think differently are wrong and blinded… note that the Qur’an makes the same claims.

    The claim that these people (myself included) are actually blinded, or “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” even though they know the Truth, not only makes no sense to me at all, but it doesn’t match the reality that I know.

    So I don’t believe it, until I see persuasive evidence that would change my mind, same as the “five dollar bill” story above.

  4. Also, did Paul ever tell a lie? What does that make him? 😉

  5. Glenn, it really comes down to this: no one has telepathy.

    When someone who doesn’t know me tries to tell me how I think, it becomes difficult to take that person seriously.

    I would bet you feel the same way.

    If I said that your favorite band is Bad Religion, and you say it’s not, and I say that, no, it really is your favorite band… how seriously are you going to take me, especially with regards to your musical tastes?

    Or even more to the point: Glenn, you’re really a Muslim, but you call yourself a Christian because you think you can hide from Allah. But you can’t hide from Allah, even though you know that’s what you’re doing.

    Wouldn’t you pretty much write me off as being bonkers?

    So, when Paul says that I, Nohm, really know that God exists, yet I lie about it… I can’t take him seriously.

    • I like this explanation from Dr. John MacArthur that answers the “suppressing the truth” or “who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” question, at least to my satisfaction:

      “This phrase could easily be rendered, ‘who are constantly attempting to suppress the truth by steadfastly holding onto their sin.’ Unrighteousness is so much a part of man’s nature that every person has a built-in, natural, compelling desire to suppress and oppose God’s truth.

      “As Paul declares in the following verse, “That which is known about God is eveident in them; for God made it evident in them” (v.19 of Romans 1). His point is that all people, regardless of their relative opportunities to know God’s Word and hear his gospel, have internal, God-given evidence of his existence and nature, but are universally inclined to resist and assault that evidence.”

  6. Steve, before I go further with this, I want to know if you agree with Dr. MacArthur that

    every person has a built-in, natural, compelling desire to suppress and oppose God’s truth

    and

    [every person has] internal, God-given evidence of his existence and nature

    Do you agree with those two claims?

    If so, is one stronger than the other, or are they of equal strength?

    Also, I’ll note that he says: “God-given evidence of his existence and nature, but are universally inclined to resist and assault that evidence

    And so I’ll ask, even though he’s unfortunately not around (but maybe you have impressive connections, Steve):

    What’s the best piece of this evidence? How does it support the claim, “The God of the Bible, exists”?

    (PS: For the record, if you think that “resist and assault” the “evidence” of the Bible or Christianity, you haven’t seen how I treat things that I want to believe in. I’m brutal to ideas that I immediately like.)

    • Nohm wrote: Steve, before I go further with this, I want to know if you agree with Dr. MacArthur that

      every person has a built-in, natural, compelling desire to suppress and oppose God’s truth

      and

      [every person has] internal, God-given evidence of his existence and nature

      Do you agree with those two claims?

      If so, is one stronger than the other, or are they of equal strength?

      Me: I agree with those two claims. I would assume that man’s desire to resist the truth of God’s existence/evidence is stronger due to his sin nature.

      Nohm: Also, I’ll note that he says: “God-given evidence of his existence and nature, but are universally inclined to resist and assault that evidence”

      And so I’ll ask, even though he’s unfortunately not around (but maybe you have impressive connections, Steve):

      What’s the best piece of this evidence? How does it support the claim, “The God of the Bible, exists”?

      Me: *SIGH!* We’re back to square one, from months ago: Design. Design.

      And at this point it doesn’t necessarily support the assertion that the God of the Bible exists, just that there is a God as far as this specific passage of Romans is concerned. But read a little bit further, as in Chapters 2 and beyond, you’ll see who this merciful, loving god is.

      But here’s the bottom line: You can’t come to Him, you can’t believe in Him, unless He draws you. You can’t believe in Him unless He has chosen you, if you are elected to believe. So it doesn’t matter to me that you can’t see the evidence of God’s design, his handiwork, in the terms of these arguments. It causes me great grief, though, that you as a person will perish, because (at this point, anyway), you will die in your sins.

      So Nohm, I do not feel compelled in anyway to try to prove to you anything else. I can answer a precious few of your questions, (after all, I am a college drop-out). But the reality is, and I mean this as no insult, I am indeed casting my pearls before swine.

  7. Hey, if I’m not elected to believe, then what choice do I have in the matter? I’m damned from birth, or even before, it appears.

  8. …you haven’t seen how I treat things that I want to believe in. I’m brutal to ideas that I immediately like.)

    Nohm brings up a very good point (he’s pretty good at that). The truth of a matter should be able to stand up to our scrutiny. If an idea is really appealing to me, I need to verify that I’m not being led astray.

    But here’s the bottom line: You can’t come to Him, you can’t believe in Him, unless He draws you. You can’t believe in Him unless He has chosen you, if you are elected to believe. So it doesn’t matter to me that you can’t see the evidence of God’s design, his handiwork, in the terms of these arguments. It causes me great grief, though, that you as a person will perish, because (at this point, anyway), you will die in your sins.

    Steve, you are saying that I’m not saved because God doesn’t want me. Just so we can be clear. Because if I’m not saved because God didn’t pick me, then it’s not my fault I’m not saved.

    I had no choice in being born. According to your beliefs, I had no choice in being born with a sinful nature. You also say that I have no choice in my salvation. Yet, if I’m condemned to Hell it’s my fault. That’s really messed up, Steve.

    So Nohm, I do not feel compelled in anyway to try to prove to you anything else. I can answer a precious few of your questions, (after all, I am a college drop-out). But the reality is, and I mean this as no insult, I am indeed casting my pearls before swine.

    Steve, being a college drop-out is no excuse for intellectual laziness. If you can’t answer some basic questions, then maybe you shouldn’t preach to the unconverted. I really like the last part, you can’t answer some questions, yet you’re convinced that your info is ‘pearls’ and we’re ‘swine’. Nice, Steve.

    “No insult intended.” lol

  9. Nohm wrote: Hey, if I’m not elected to believe, then what choice do I have in the matter? I’m damned from birth, or even before, it appears.

    Perdita wrote: Steve, you are saying that I’m not saved because God doesn’t want me. Just so we can be clear. Because if I’m not saved because God didn’t pick me, then it’s not my fault I’m not saved.

    I had no choice in being born. According to your beliefs, I had no choice in being born with a sinful nature. You also say that I have no choice in my salvation. Yet, if I’m condemned to Hell it’s my fault. That’s really messed up, Steve.

    Me: In a sense, yes. But on this side of the eternity, you have a choice, don’t you? If you repent and trust in Christ today for forgiveness of sins, then you are chosen. Simple. If not, you are condemned already. This is the great debate in Christianity, as you well know. Most Christians would just love to throw out Romans chapter 9, but it’s there for all to see… and despise.

    Perdita wrote: Steve, being a college drop-out is no excuse for intellectual laziness. If you can’t answer some basic questions, then maybe you shouldn’t preach to the unconverted. I really like the last part, you can’t answer some questions, yet you’re convinced that your info is ‘pearls’ and we’re ’swine’. Nice, Steve.

    “No insult intended.” lol

    Me: Jesus said the swine comment in reference to the limited understanding that a pagan hastoward the things of God. I’m just echoing Him.

    As far as answering basic questions, I’ve referred you atheists to some of the best Christian thinkers and writers; from Strobel to Koukl, from The Discovery institute to the Institute for Creation Research—and more. No matter what I say, or they say, it will always be discounted by you and your ilk; these are the pearls cast before swine. Besides Scripture says that these things can only be spiritually discerned; so I acknowledge—and accept—that I will never convince you even if I used “wise and persuasive” words. But I’ll continue to try in my feeble, ignorant, uneducated ways—because I love you. Look for my future series of articles: “Of Pagans, Pearls and Pork.” Coming soon.

    Proverbs says two things: “Answer a fool according to his folly,” and “Don’t answer a fool according to his folly.” In regard to the atheists on this blog, I’ve done both.

    As ole ExPatMatt (who picked up his marbles and left the game) used to write:

    Cheers,

    (BTW, if you travel in his circles, say “Hi” for me. And that I miss him.)

  10. Steve wrote: “As far as answering basic questions, I’ve referred you atheists to some of the best Christian thinkers and writers; from Strobel to Koukl, from The Discovery institute to the Institute for Creation Research

    Your problem is that those are not “some of the best Christian thinkers and writers”; in fact, the ones you listed aren’t even close.

    Also, you’re not supposed to link “The Discovery Institute” to Christianity… ixnay on the eligionray is what they’d tell you. That’s how the entire ID thing got busted during the Dover trial.

    Steve wrote: “No matter what I say, or they say, it will always be discounted by you and your ilk

    Just like no matter what Imams say, it will always be discounted by you and your ilk.

    Just like no matter what an evolutionary biologist says, it will always be discounted by you and your ilk.

    So, we’re in the same boat. Let’s not get hypocritical, here.

    Also, for the record, I’ve given reasons why I don’t accept their claims, but you don’t tend to respond to those reasons.

    So, it’s not like I’m just waving it aside; I’ve seriously considered their arguments, and discounted them due to pseudoscience or logical fallacies.

    Steve wrote: “In a sense, yes. But on this side of the eternity, you have a choice, don’t you?

    If God didn’t elect me to believe, then how do I have a choice? The decision’s already been made, right?

    If you repent and trust in Christ today for forgiveness of sins, then you are chosen. Simple.

    Been there, done that. No evidence of God.

    Jesus said the swine comment in reference to the limited understanding that a pagan hastoward the things of God. I’m just echoing Him.

    You can call me a swine all you like. Compared to accusing me of lying about my non-belief, the word “swine” is a compliment. 😉

    Besides Scripture says that these things can only be spiritually discerned; so I acknowledge—and accept—that I will never convince you even if I used “wise and persuasive” words.

    How incredibly convenient.

    (BTW, if you travel in his circles, say “Hi” for me. And that I miss him.)

    I do travel “in his circles”, and I’ll be sure to post this comment for him.

    Be well.

  11. But on this side of the eternity, you have a choice, don’t you? If you repent and trust in Christ today for forgiveness of sins, then you are chosen. Simple.

    is not,

    But here’s the bottom line: You can’t come to Him, you can’t believe in Him, unless He draws you. You can’t believe in Him unless He has chosen you, if you are elected to believe.

    Which is it?

    I’ve referred you atheists to some of the best Christian thinkers and writers; from Strobel to Koukl, from The Discovery institute to the Institute for Creation Research—and more

    That not-so-truthful article on evolution we debunked not long ago: Discover Institute or Creation Research?

    I’ve not read Koukl, but I’ve read Strobel, Zacharis and Lewis. If I discount what they say its because I find glaring errors, half-truths and emotional appeals over substance. Truth should stand up to our scrutiny.

  12. Steve, I think you need to re-word these phrases:

    You can’t come to Him, you can’t believe in Him, unless He draws you. You can’t believe in Him unless He has chosen you, if you are elected to believe.

    If you repent and trust in Christ today for forgiveness of sins, then you are chosen.M

    That didn’t come across right at all, IMO.

  13. The reason that didn’t come across correctly, IMO, is because in one sentence you’re saying that only a chosen few will get to Heaven (that’s Calvinism), then the second statement, you say all you have to do is repent and trust in Jesus. It appears, to me, that you’re contradicting yourself.

    • Bizzle,

      No contradiction at all. God chooses. But on this side of things, it’s our choice, is it not? When we choose God, we then know that He actually chose us. If you stubbornly refuse to trust in Christ and repent, you die in your sins, and end up finally, horribly, in torment, then you understand that you were not chosen. Simple.

      I like to live this way: It’s 100% God, 100% me.

      And I evangelize with this mind set: That no one else is sharing their faith and that God doesn’t save.

      BTW, I’m not going to try to solve the Arminian/Calvinism question here; I know what I believe. It’s okay, as a Christian, to disagree with me. This 500 year-old debate will not be settled here, that’s for sure.

      Good comments, Bizzle. I like the way you think. Are you an evangelist by the way?

  14. Steve,

    I’m curious… are you a Calvinist, or an Arminianist?

    I always just assumed you were a Calvinist.

  15. Ok. Do you consider biblical Christians to be either Calvinists or Arminianists? Or maybe some other option?

  16. There’s no “gotcha” here, Steve; I’m just curious.

  17. Oh, and by the way, Steve. You say “design” is the evidence.

    Let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that you’re correct.

    Design only identifies that a “Designer” exists. It says nothing about who that Designer is (in fact, that’s the exact spiel of the Discovery Institute). At best, you have a “Creator”, but there isn’t anything about the design that would allow us to know that the “Creator” is the God of the Bible instead of Allah, or a god that a deist would believe in.

    Unless you know of something else.

  18. Nohm: I lean towards Reformed Theology for the most part.

    And yes, Arminians would consider their theology biblical, too.

    And I would agree with you that design only points to a Designer, not necessarily to Christ.

    The end of Strobel’s book, “The Case for a Creator” gives a great argument for a specific Designer. (I know you don’t care for that book, though.)

  19. Steve, I’ll look up what Strobel’s argument was (I don’t remember it off-hand), but would you mind nutshelling it for me?

  20. Hrm, my copy of the book is in storage, and I’m not able to find chapter 11 anywhere online; other chapters are viewable through Google’s book preview, but not chapter 11.

    So, if possible, I’d like your help in reminding me what his argument was for a specific Designer.

  21. Nohm,

    If you ever get to the point of believing there’s a God, I will be happy to explain why He’s the God of the Bible, and not someone else. It’s fairly straightforward logic and no, I won’t use circular arguments. However, since you’re not convinced of a Designer, I’ll wait for your conviction.

  22. I completely understand, Steve.

    In the meantime, if anyone else has the book handy, I’d appreciate some help here.

    Thanks in advance. 🙂

  23. Hi Steve,

    I apologize, it seems my comment wasn’t clear. Your comments are not a contradiction to me. I was trying to say that I can see how an atheist/Jew/Muslim would see that as contradictory especially those educated to the various denominations. I wasn’t trying to trip you up.

    As for the evangelism question, I would have to say I evangelize passively, but I’m not sure that’s a correct description. I’ve tried to preach and it doesn’t work for me and there are two reasons for that.

    First I don’t actively evangelize more because I frankly don’t have the answers that folks like Perdita, Nohm and others are looking for (at least not yet!). I don’t feel I’m doing my job unless I can start them down the road to conversion. To me, just preaching the Gospel is like going to paint a room and only applying primer. If you can’t go all the way, why bother?

    The second reason is that I’ve actually opened more people to God’s Word through my day-to-day behavior. I’ve had people ask me how I can act with compassion and good will in such a world and then I tell them about my faith. I won a scholarship for college because I was deemed by the HS staff to be the best living example of faith in my graduating class (Not trying to brag, just showing how that was the seed of how I share my faith).

    One of my best friends is an atheist, and he has told me that if he were to convert, it’d be because of the way I live my life more than any preaching I have ever done. He considers me a living example of my beliefs. As an aside, he thinks a lot like Nohm does, and I thought it was him for a while, but I live in PA. I do hand out tracts, but usually only when I get them first or people hand me literature.

  24. I thought I was going to get a response. Guess not. Oh well.

  25. No contradiction at all. God chooses. But on this side of things, it’s our choice, is it not?

    You don’t see that as a contradiction? Because I’m pretty sure you just told me that I can’t choose God, unless God has already chosen me. Therefore, no matter what it looks like from inside time and space, it isn’t – and never was, and cannot be – my choice.

    Am I missing something here?

    I mean, I get that the Almighty doesn’t want His representatives competing to see who can save the most souls; and I can see why He wouldn’t want His reps to feel like they themselves had the power to save people from Hell.

    (On the other hand, that might explain why God doesn’t answer me. If I’m not one of the Elect, then He has known since before I was born that I’m destined to spend eternity in Hell.)

    • Hi Mike,

      Sorry for the long delay in responding.

      Yes. You are right. If you are not elect, then you cannot choose. BUT! “Whoever…” That’s a key word in John 3:16… and other places. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

      I talked with a Communist party official in Vietnam. He said that there is a phrase that says”Seeing is believing.” “But as far as Christianity is concerned,” he paused to take a breath, “believing is seeing.”

      Is anyone stopping you from believing right now?

      If you don’t choose to believe, then you are not chosen. If you choose to believe, then you are chosen. If you choose to do nothing, you’ve made your choice.

      It’s pretty simple.

      • So Steve,

        Why didn’t you ever do that for Islam?

        If a Muslim said “But as far as Islam is concerned, believing is seeing”, how would you react? How would you have reacted before you became born again?

        You expect others to do something that you yourself have not done; that is, to accept the statements of someone that has a belief that you do not currently have.

        I find that bizarre.

        As for anyone stopping me from believing? I guess it would be me, for the same reason I’m not believing in Islam. Or Hinduism.

      • Hm. Assuming you’re right about this, then John 3:16 should really read, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever the Lord chooses to allow to believe in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

        Calvinism is a problem for me. It’s not that it can’t be supported scripturally; as far as I can tell, it can, though I wouldn’t read the text that way myself. Mainly, though, Calvinism presents God as a monster while insisting that He is perfectly, absolutely good.

        Is anyone stopping you from believing right now?

        It seems quite possible, based on what you’ve just said, that God Himself is.

        If you don’t choose to believe, then you are not chosen.

        …And now you’ve inverted the order of importance. Because, again, if I’m not chosen – that is, if I’m not Elect – then I can’t choose to believe – which means it’s not actually my fault that I’m bound for eternal Hell. It can’t be, because the decision is ultimately God’s.

        On a related note:
        I’m not sure “choose” is exactly the word I’d use in relation to religious beliefs (or lack of them). Did you “choose” to believe, in the sense that you might, say, choose to eat a salad instead of ordering a hamburger? Or did you reach the conclusion that you were a worthless sinner, but that Jesus’ death could redeem you if you believed in him?

        I realize that modern Christianity consistently presents belief as a choice, but it seems to me that doing so both misrepresents the way this transition usually works, and understates the importance of the process. I think that trying to look at it as a “choice” actually makes it harder to see why people might “choose” (or reach conclusions) differently.

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