(This article can also we found on our website
at http://www.bethelkingston.com under the tab called "Blog")
This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
This TB is going to be a little different than ones we put out weekly. You will note that, included in this TB is a bibliography. We strongly encourage you to check out some of these resources as you seek to intelligently engage with friends and family who may be atheists. One of the purposes of the Hot Topic series is to equip you (me too) to answer tough questions.
Below you will note the issues that the panel members addressed. Each of them has provided a brief summary of their presentation.
In my opening remarks, I commented on how we live in a world offering a “buffet” of belief choices. Even back in Joshua’s day with Israel surrounded by foreign nations, they had to choose for themselves who they would serve, what they would believe in:
"Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:14-15)
What has been your experience with those who have embraced atheism?
Is it harder to be a person of faith today than in your parent’s generation? Why or why not?
Carmen - Nothing New Under the Sun.
Carmen explained briefly that while the new atheism certainly is a step-up in terms of angry rhetoric, it’s really nothing new, because in Solomon’s own words “there’s nothing new under the sun.” The arguments haven’t changed, and in many cases the answers have been the same for over 2000 years.
Do you find this reassuring? Why or why not?
When people like Freud or Marx make their suggestions about why there isn’t really a God, have you found yourself believing them? Carmen pointed out that their arguments actually prove nothing about the actual existence of God. All they prove is that man is a fallen human being, capable of great evil and idolatry.
Why do you think people simply take their arguments at face value?
What can you do as a Christian to ensure you are able to “give an answer for the hope that is within you, with gentleness and respect”?
HINT: it’s at the end of the TB, starts with “B” and ends with “IBLIOGRAPHY”.
Eric - A Biblical Diagnosis
- Rebellion (Romans 1:21-25) - If you leave God out - don't glorify Him, thank Him, believe in Him - and worship other things, he may let you do your own thing. And there is nothing more frightening.
- Independence (Luke 12:20) - This is more subtle. It's just leaving Him out. Doing good and logical things and being just fine without God at all.
- Psychology (Romans 7:18,23 and the story of the Prodigal Son). St. Paul clearly says that there is much more than reason alone to explain our behaviour.
- Are there examples of rebellion or independence in your life?
- Do you ever believe God to be either like your own parents or like one of His true attributes but one very selectively chosen from Scripture?
Meredith noted that Christians often accuse Atheists of having no "moral compass." We accuse them of being gluttonous, greedy, lustful, and slothful. But are there times when we have been hypocritical? The greatest philanthropists of our time are atheists: George Soros, Bill Gates and William Buffett.
Atheists have long been critical of Christians – Meredith pointed out that Christians have the same vices (such as issues with pornography) as non-believers.
Atheists often feel frustrated with Christians appeal to God to explain complicated things (a so called "God-of-the-Gaps" mentality), or who divide over dogma, or are hurtfully narrow-minded while failing to address some of the most egregious and obvious sins in their own backyard (racism, sexism, consumerism, fill in your own -ism).
Have you struggled with this in your life as a believer? What would you say to an atheist who brings this up?
Noted atheist A. N. Wilson wrote about his return to his Christian faith. He writes: "My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known—not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in the light of the Resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die. …”
Note “the lives and examples” … how is your life? What are your examples?
Living the way of Philippians 2:1-4 is a powerful apologetic!
If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favour: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. (The Message)
Mark - Slogans
The slogan I commented on was “There’s Probably No God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Read Matthew 6:25-34. How is this slogan the direct opposite of what Jesus said?
This slogan suggests that God must be some monster so now we can stop worrying because the monster doesn’t (probably doesn’t - to be exact) exist. Why do you think that some atheists seem to have this monster view of God?
Comment on the following quote I read in conclusion:
“I have never heard anybody say, One day I realized there was no God, no one behind reality, no life after death. I realized existence is a meaningless accident, begun by chance and destined for oblivion, and it changed my life. I used to be addicted to alcohol, but now the law of natural selection has set me free. I used to be greedy but now the story of the Big Bang has made me generous. I used to be afraid, but now random chance has made me brave.Wrap
I have never heard the story of an accidental, meaningless universe changing a life like that. Now, I have heard people say they were oppressed by the form of faith they followed and felt a sense of liberation when they didn’t believe it was true anymore. But I have never seen anyone receive the power to live the kind of life and become the kind of person he or she wants to be by hearing that there is no story behind the universe. I have never heard anyone say, ‘Now I have found a meaningful existence from a meaningless reality.’ ” John Ortberg, Faith and Doubt
What are the action steps?
- Pray for people you know are atheists.
- Serve people who are atheists and use words when necessary.
- Be prepared to give an answer, with gentleness and respect - Respond in grace.
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Hot Topics for a Cold Month # 2 - 16 JAN 11 – Atheism
Aikman, David (2008). The Delusion of Disbelief: Why the New Atheism is a Threat to Your Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. ISBN: 1-4143-1708-5
D'Souza, Dinesh (2007). What's So Great About Christianity? Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing Inc. ISBN: 978-1414326016
Eagelton, Terry (2010). Reason, Faith and Revolution - Reflections on the God Debate. Yale University Press, ISBN: 978-0300164534
Flew, Anthony with Roy Varghese (2007). There is a God. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Geisler, Norman L. and Frank Turek (2004). I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. ISBN: 1-58134-561-5
Hitchens, Peter (2010). The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. ISBN: 978-0-310-32031-9
Keller, Timothy (2008). The Reason For God. New York, NY: Penguin Group. ISBN: 978-1594483493
McGrath, Alister (2010). The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind. Downer's Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. ISBN: 978-0830838431
Ortberg, John (2008). Faith and Doubt. Zondervan Books. ISBN: 978-0310253204
Spiegel, James (2010). The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8024-7611-1
Sproul, R.C. (1978). If There's a God, Why are there Atheists?: Why Atheists Believe in Unbelief (Revised edition of the book The Psychology of Atheism.). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. ISBN: 978-0871232380
Stott, John (2006). The Incomparable Christ. Intervarsity Press. ISBN 978-0830832224
Vitz, Paul C. (1999). Faith of the Fatherless: the Psychology of Atheism. Dallas: Spence Publishers. ISBN: 978-1890626129
Wright, N.T. (2006). The Challenge of Jesus - Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is. Intervarsity Press. ISBN: 978-0830822003
Wright, N.T. (2006). Evil and the Justice of God. Intervarsity Press. ISBN: 978-0830833986
Wright, N.T. (2010). Simply Christian - Why Christianity Makes Sense. HarperOne. ISBN: 978-0061920622
Yancey, Philip (2010). What Good is God? Faithwords. ISBN: 978-0446559850
Zacharias, Ravi (2008). Beyond Opinion – Living the Faith We Defend. Thomas Nelson. ISBN: 978-0849919688
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith
Stand to Reason