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About That “Conversation” with Atheists…

I’m officially over this idea that Christians need to start conversations, dialog, negotiations with everyone they disagree with. As if talking to someone of another faith persuasion somehow bridges the ideological divide between us.

Advocates of such an approach usually appeal for conversation on the basis that it will lead to…

  • understanding
  • civility
  • respect
  • compromise

Problem is, depending upon your “opponent,” cultivating those virtues might be just the thing to grease your slide. I mean, do you really think Mr. Fox gives a blip about “understanding” Mrs. Hen? No. But he’s crafty enough to endure a hen-house pow-wow in the hopes of an easy meal. Likewise, the notion that we need to converse with our ideological adversaries might be the first step to conceding the hen-house to the fox.

Of course, I’m not suggesting we avoid dialog or cultivate rudeness. Listening to “opponents” is the “Christian” thing to do. They are humans. They have stories. They deserve love and grace. But they also deserve TRUTH. And this, I’m afraid, is the ground Christians are often too willing to concede.

In our attempt to be nice, civil, and understanding, we are avoiding the real truth about our differences. And the consequences of ignoring those truths.

That’s the feeling I had reading Rachel Held Evans’ recent piece on atheists at CNN Belief Blog: Hey atheists, let’s make a deal. What is “the deal” Evans want to make with atheists? Well, that we/they stop using nutjobs in either camp to whitewash the other side. In her case, Evans cites Pat Robertson and Richard Dawkins as representatives of the fringes of their prospective movements.

…what if we resist the urge to use the latest celebrity gaffe as an excuse to paint one another with broad brushes?

What if, instead of engaging the ideas of the most extreme and irrational Christians and atheists, we engaged the ideas of the most reasonable, the most charitable, the most respectful and respected?

Only then can we avoid these shallow ad hominem attacks and instead engage in substantive debates that bring our true differences and our true commonalities to light. (bold mine)

I appreciate the tone of Evans’ approach. Really. It just seems… naive. It did, however, “bring our true differences… to light.”

Exhibit A: The non-substantive debate that followed Evans’ appeal for “substantive debates.” The post is nearing 6,000 comments. But the snark, vitriol, bickering, and nastiness is rather comic. Here’s a few gems cribbed from the conversation:

“This article is one of the most pathetic things I have ever read.”

“No deals for you. That’s the difference between Christians and atheists. Christians are supposed to try to be nice people that do the right thing and keep the peace. Atheists have no such directive.”

“The difference between yourself and Professor Dawkins, is that when he makes a claim he can back it up.”

“what Rachel fails to understand is that her belief system is based on the same foundations as Robertson’s”

“Okay I’ll agree to do that when you also agree to stop brainwashing children into a world of guilt, by calling them sinners.”

“Please find yourself to the nearest 20+ story building, toss yourself off the top of it, and ask your sky fairy to save you.”

“Hey Rachel Held Evans, how about you be quiet.”

“Hey Christians……ADULTS WITH IMAGINARY FRIENDS ARE STUPID!”

“Gaffes made by the likes of Dawkins and Robertson do not and cannot change the undeniable and unalterable truth that religions are man-made nonsense. So, No. No deal.”

So that thing about…

  • understanding
  • civility
  • respect
  • compromise

Forget about it.

Christians are doing a disservice to atheists by looking for “common ground.” The real important thing to distinguish between Christians and atheists is not that sliver of ground they share, but the Grand Canyon that stands between them.

Christians are doing a disservice to atheists by not telling them the truth about their eternal state. Jesus said, “unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24 NLT). At some point, being Christlike might mean sharing this, in love, with objectors.

Having a conversation is great. It just doesn’t guarantee we will ever agree — or SHOULD agree — about our points of contention. Building bridges is okay… provided the folks on the other side don’t have the pox.

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{ 54 comments… add one }
  • Joy DeKok September 20, 2013, 5:54 AM

    Wow – excellent post. I’ve been thinking similar thoughts. Thank you for giving me more to ponder.

  • Heather Marsten September 20, 2013, 6:04 AM

    My pastor has us practice testimonies – two minute, five minute, longer. He says you speak to a person and say, “Can I tell you what happened to me?” If the person says yes you tell the a segment of your testimony that relates to the. For example if I’m talking to a mom I might share mothering concerns, a business man might evoke a different part of my testimony. One or two likes to set the stage, the precipitating moment, and then what God did. Because it is your experience the person can’t deny that it is true for you. If they ask questions you can talk more, if not, you say, “Thank you for listening.”

    The other thing my pastor says is we are to be seed planters -even if what you say doesn’t bear instant fruit, you’ve planted seeds. Someone will come along to water them at the right time.

    I am the poster child for seeds being planted. I was a pagan (major pagan from the age of 18 until 48. And I gave up on God when I was eight. The abuse I received made deep father wounds and I wanted NOTHING of God. People planted seeds – I mocked, laughed, turned away. God sent a few people in my life to water those seeds and now I’m sold out for Him.

    Truth is, when a person rejects God there is a massive father wound in their life. I remember walking into my pastor’s office for the first time and declaring, “But Pastor Don, I’m a good witch.” He did not laugh or fall off his chair. He showed me the passage in Deuteronomy that all witchcraft is an abomination to God. Gave me a great description of how satan can disguise himself as a healer if it means he can get someone else into his kingdom. And the, Pastor Don said, “So tell me about your father.” Two years of talking later I began to see God as loving Father and accepted Him into my life – Pastor Don was patient.

    Never, never give up and know that what you sow God will water.

    • Samuel Choy September 20, 2013, 6:44 AM

      Heather, that was an incredible testimony. God really is good.

      • Heather Marsten September 20, 2013, 7:24 AM

        Yes, He is good. Sorry about the typos in the above – not enough coffee yet, I guess.

    • Janet September 20, 2013, 9:40 AM

      I agree Heather, we are to be planting and watering. Love your testimony. Praise God you were saved! I was saved later in life and I can relate to a lot of what you wrote.

      This has been some of my experience:
      Sometimes we can ask the questions too. One day I was in a Starbucks and the guy working behind the counter was wearing this weird looking stone around his neck. I asked him about it, and he said it has powers to help with this and that. I asked him if it was working, and this lead us into a short conversation about God. And many others waiting for their coffees were listening.
      What I find is there are all sorts of way God will lead us to talk to someone.

      Another time I was reading a book and this woman with her baby sitting next to me, kept saying to me – ‘Oh, I’ve heard about that book.”, Oh, I’ve read a similar book like that’. I wanted to keep reading lol, but I recognized God was providing a moment to speak with this woman. So I put down my book and we started chatting. And it turned into quite the conversation – it got a little heated and she ended up in tears, a woman who had been walking with God and was now living a sinful lifestyle and didn’t want to hear it, but she knew it was true. Oh, she knew.
      This has happened over and over again. One time I ended up giving this woman a ride home after talking about God for a couple of hours. I gave her my phone number and she never called me.
      But these are all seed planting moments, and a bit of watering. And then I go home and pray and ask God to give the increase.
      I think we have to be paying attention and God does provide us opportunities all the time.

      • Heather Marsten September 20, 2013, 1:24 PM

        Yes and you never know when the seeds will sprout – they do it in God’s timing. And praying is important. I know many people walked away from me frustrated when I was Christian baiting or making snide comments – but their seeds still were planted. It’s important to remember that, if God says to speak to someone, speak to them. You don’t know the far-reaching consequences and your obedience matters to God. Also, when I was making those comments and rejecting God there was another part of me that wanted so much what these people were telling me, but I couldn’t believe it was true for me. I was hurting inside, no matter the front I put on. Don’t be put off, just reach out with love. You know, sometimes it takes five or six or a hundred times before finally the soil of the person is ready. I say, try – scatter seed and see what catches.

  • Ron Estrada September 20, 2013, 6:32 AM

    Mike, I agree. I tried debating atheists for a while before finally posting “Why Arguing with Atheists is a waste of time.” We will not change a single mind through debate. Atheists are the fringe 5%. Somewhere out there exists 60% of non-Christians who are open to the gospel. Yet we waste hours of the time God has given us on those who have shut their hearts completely. I think we’re better off in the fields where the harvest is ripe, not in the fields of dead withering vines.

    • Rebecca LuElla Miller September 20, 2013, 8:04 PM

      Ron, it’s not a waste of time ever to declare who Jesus Christ is. Peter says we should always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks us to give an account for the hope that is in us, yet with gentleness and reverence.

      I don’t think we need to go looking for debates, but if someone comes to us, why wouldn’t we want to tell them what we know? How can we not speak to them civilly? Peter also says we are to “Honor all people.” Why should that exclude atheists?

      Becky

      • C.L. Dyck September 23, 2013, 12:02 PM

        Thank you for this, Becky. My grandmother, who was an ardent atheist, passed away last month.

        It was hearing from others who took the time to talk with her that’s made it bearable.

  • Samuel Choy September 20, 2013, 6:49 AM

    Mike,

    I just came across your blog and am going to start following. That was a great blog post. I guess that sometimes being civil means talking to someone else. Even Jesus made statements such as, “Don’t throw your pearls before swine,” and to “shake the dust from your feet,” if they don’t receive you.

    • Janet September 20, 2013, 9:05 AM

      It seems there are people calling themselves Christians, like Rachel Held Evans, who think that God is more concerned about unbelievers and accepting them in their sin, than about keeping His Church, His Bride holy.
      I see this not only in her blog on atheists, but on many, many of her other blogs on a variety of topics, especially homosexual sin.
      Yet, what you say Samuel is true – what about these teachings in Scripture, what I call foundational practices that God has given us to protect the church, His people.

      Funny, this morning I was discussing a similar issue with a young Christian woman, who thought that I was being harsh because I said ‘practicing sinners’ should be kicked out of the church body until they repent, just like Paul said to do with the young man who was having sex with his step-mother. If the person is repenting and trying to overcome their sin, that’s different, but someone who says its perfectly okay to do this and I am going to do it, live the lifestyle, then they can’t remain in the church.
      She thought this was way overboard. It seems like her age group of young Christians (including RHE) have this idea of Christianity, that suggests God is more concerned with being inclusive of unbelievers, than about the church – in fact, they seem really down on the church and really understanding of unbelievers.
      Have you seen this? Has anyone else seen this?

      • Samuel Choy September 20, 2013, 10:40 AM

        Hi Janet,
        I agree with you to a certain extent. As far as things such as baptism, church membership, and especially church leadership is concerned, churches should ensure that those people agree with the church’s doctrinal statement and are not unrepentant about their sins.
        However, as far as attendance goes, churches should let all feel welcome. After all, Jesus went out of his way to spend time with tax collectors, prostitutes, leapers, and adulterers. He didn’t let them a free pass on their sin, but he gave them the truth in love.
        My point in my preceding comment was that when we reach out to people, we should invest our time on people who are open, not waste it on people who are openly hostile, and won’t listen.

        • Janet September 20, 2013, 12:03 PM

          Yes, I agree with you Samuel. Exactly as you say true in love, I condemn you not he said to the adulterer, but ‘go and sin no more’.
          So, it appears to me it isn’t like that today, where in particular young Christians (a lot younger than me anyways) are hanging out with unbelievers just because, versus purposefully, how Jesus did. But His close friends were all disciples, those who believed, not unbelievers or the Pharisees.
          What I have been told by several young Christians is, it is important to understand unbelievers point of view. I applaud their concern for people in general. It is a harsh world and there are many hurting, I them they are too.
          So, I completely agree with you that we shouldn’t invest our time on people who are openly hostile, yet I find the younger Christians seem to think this is the way to go. Kind of like take the abuse from them, because you are Christian.
          Forgive, I am trying to work through what I am seeing in these younger Christians and their blogging, etc.

      • Josh September 20, 2013, 10:52 AM

        The problem with the passage you refer to about the man sleeping with his stepmother is that one can logically assume that the man already called himself a “Christian”. From the passages about church discipline, Paul is talking about kicking out Christians who continue in unrepentant sin after the proper steps have been followed. Paul isn’t referring to kicking out people who don’t even profess Christ.

        • Janet September 20, 2013, 11:47 AM

          That’s exactly right Josh, they are professing to be Christians and they are kicked out. Yet, there are Christians who say unbelievers can be a part of the church – can they? no. Tom Wright says (I’m paraphrasing), if you want to join God’s church then there are beliefs and rules that we follow. We agree to follow them and if you don’t want to, then don’t join.
          It seems to me among younger Christians there is a movement to be inclusive of unbelievers in the church too and allowing them to remain in their sin.
          I attended a church that was allowing a group to meet which included unbelievers – stating they don’t believe in Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior (liked the particular church because it was a friendly, nice place to be) and they called it a ‘Bible study’.
          Like it is a reverse situation – they want to allow unbelievers in the church and let them continue in their sin, but condemn Christians.
          It is an odd situation.

  • christopher clack September 20, 2013, 6:58 AM

    I find mikes view Absolutely disgusting, appalling views, terrible so depressing, if there was a road to hell this is the road to take, if you follow this way of living in our world. No matter how intolerant some atheists may be , this is not a Christian way of living. I do not see any evidence for this in the way Christ actually seemed to live and how he interacted with people.
    I also do not like on this blog the idea that Christians are persecuted, if you have a look around the world there is real persecution going on, and Christian s are not top of the list, very few Christians are persecuted for there beliefs , most Christians are left to practice there faith in a pretty good position, if you want to know what its like to be persecuted try being a woman in certain cultures or gay or part racial minority in some country’s. Did Christ play the part of the persecuted?
    Was he thinking of himself? Did he see himself as part of some hard done group, who needed to defend themselves? How you talk is the opposite , totally, of the christian life. You are becoming one group among other groups all fighting there corner. Can you imagine Christ taking part in this undignified scramble to hold top table?

    • D.M. Dutcher September 20, 2013, 9:42 AM

      Look, no offense Chris, but this doesn’t work.

      I’ve had atheists harangue me for believing in my faith, and when I get tired of being a free punching bag for them to jab, have them harangue me for not standing still and taking it like Christ would. People use what you say in order to keep us in a mindset to perpetuate the abuse they want to inflict, at and some point you tell them “who are you to tell me what Christ would do when you don’t even believe he existed” and then stop giving them a willing target.

      Being Christlike doesn’t mean being a punching bag. Before He was crucified, there were several times where He withdrew from people who either wanted to kill Him or make Him king, and Paul often used every means he could to avoid persecution too. At some point, people will simply use your willingness as a way to make you a whipping boy, and Mike is right in that after awhile you stop dialoguing.

      • christopher clack September 20, 2013, 10:14 AM

        well then DM avoid persecution, withdraw from those who want to kill you, but stop drawing lines in the sand.

        • Jessica Thomas September 20, 2013, 12:13 PM

          Egypt. Muslim Brotherhood burning down Christian churches and telling people to “convert or we’ll cut off your heads”. << This is happening as we type.

          • Matthew Sample II September 20, 2013, 1:48 PM

            If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also; if they have kept my word, they will also keep yours…. the time shall come, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth God service.

            —Jesus, as recorded in John 15:19-20, 16:2

          • Janet September 20, 2013, 2:40 PM

            There is a lot of truth to your comment Jessica. We can only have conversations like this, because we live here in NA. In other countries, this wouldn’t be an issue.

          • christopher clack September 20, 2013, 3:34 PM

            yes we know, i never thought or said Christians are not persecuted at all, in particular white Christians in a country such as the usa are not suffering major persecution .i just felt that the general tone of this blog can be overdoing the poor persecuted christian bit in the light of real suffering by others around the world. so whats the reason for your point the reason for your point is just to try and dismantle anything that is said against you with anything you can.

            • Jessica Thomas September 20, 2013, 5:14 PM

              “so whats the reason for your point the reason for your point is just to try and dismantle anything that is said against you with anything you can.”

              Huh?

        • D.M. Dutcher September 20, 2013, 4:03 PM

          We draw lines by believing what we do. Most of the time though we just hide it. Offer to pray over a secular friend sometime, wear a Christian t-shirt in highschool or college, or read the Bible during break at work. You’d be surprised at how uncomfortable people can get over even the tiniest displays, let alone saving yourself for marriage, witnessing publicly, or protesting issues based on your Christian conscience. Doesn’t mean we should see persecution where it isn’t, but how much is them, and how much is us self-censoring?

    • Thea van Diepen September 20, 2013, 1:54 PM

      Also, believers in China have to be super-careful not to say anything about their faith to the wrong person. Otherwise, they could lose their job (aka, their entire livelihood) or, worse, be taken away and never seen again.

      In many Muslim countries, becoming a Christian would mean that your family/friends might kill you for it. Heck, the fear of death or being completely ostracized by family members for becoming a Christian exists for Muslims in North America and Europe as well.

      Christians are persecuted nearly everywhere around the world, ranging from the microaggression we in North America are told isn’t “real persecution” to horrific torture and death.

      Try being a university student, listening to all the anti-God and anti-Christian comments made all around you (some overt, some subtle, all clear in their intent), the general degrading of Christians as foolish, stupid, dangerous, hypocritical, hateful, idiotic, and/or just plain infantile. Listen as your professors insist that the God you serve is “Exactly like Zeus”, angry and judgemental, fickle, wishy-washy, a tyrant, and/or a figment of the imagination. And while they paint “religion” as regressive, backward, and anti-science, all the while using only Christianity as their example. Do that for four years, camouflaged by the fact that, if you don’t say otherwise, everyone just assumes that, because you’re white and in a university, you must be agnostic or atheist, which means they can say all these things assuming you’ll agree with them. Before long, you may not want to ever disillusion them, just to save yourself from all the worse things you could easily imagine suffering once your faith was made clear.

      Feminists and the LGBT community would consider such a constant barrage of negative comments, imagery, and actions towards women, racial minorities, and anyone who isn’t straight or cisgendered to be legitimate persecution. If this is so, then this definition of persecution must also come into effect if such aggression happens to Christians, otherwise the definition is useless and elitist.

      That said, no, Jesus didn’t consider himself to be a victim, waving the “woe is me” flag in everyone’s faces. But he did experience persecution, the kind that lead to his death, and he warned his followers that they would experience it as well. If it is solely a victim mentality you object to, well, that is something I agree with. But what you said was:

      “I also do not like on this blog the idea that Christians are persecuted, if you have a look around the world there is real persecution going on, and Christian s are not top of the list, very few Christians are persecuted for there beliefs , most Christians are left to practice there faith in a pretty good position, if you want to know what its like to be persecuted try being a woman in certain cultures or gay or part racial minority in some country’s.”

      You may not like “the idea that Christians are persecuted”, but this is a well-established fact and has been going on since Christ. We may be “left to practise [our] faith in a pretty good position”, but that does not, in any way, mean that we aren’t also being persecuted by many in our society.

      Minorities, LGBT, and women don’t have the corner on the market for persecution. Every group, of every kind, experiences persecution to some level or another by at least one other group that knows about them. Much as it is fashionable to consider Christianity as solely an oppressor, or in a place of privilege, it most assuredly is not in increasing amounts. You may not like it, but it is true.

      • christopher clack September 20, 2013, 3:45 PM

        i know i know Christians HAVE been persecuted that was not my point. but listen to yourselves, You are not persecuted. that stuff you put at the beginning of your comment is pathetic. so not every one whats to accept what you believe grow up and get over it.

        • Thea van Diepen September 20, 2013, 4:09 PM

          I have no problem with people not accepting what I believe. I would simply like to be treated as an equal, regardless of what I believe, rather than as an inferior.

      • Rebecca LuElla Miller September 20, 2013, 8:16 PM

        Thea, I wish Mike had like buttons. Two thumbs up!

  • Katherine Coble September 20, 2013, 7:18 AM

    Here’s what I do.

    I have numerous atheist friends. We talk about everything.

    Except religion.

    I find that by just being friends and getting along and talking about books and films and iOS 7 and dogs and candy and paint colours we actually come to respect each other as people. Eventually they usually do talk to me about my religion and those are respectful conversations.

    • Jill September 20, 2013, 5:37 PM

      This sums up what I was going to say.

    • Kevin Lucia September 21, 2013, 4:34 PM

      Ditto.

  • Nikole Hahn September 20, 2013, 7:19 AM

    That’s good. I may quote you and refer back to this article. Conversation is good, if they listen. Our pastor said an atheist becoming a believer is a spiritual miracle. We need to ask ourselves if the conversation is worth having with this particular person or is it going to be vitriol? Is God working with this person? Are we planting seeds? Or are we wasting our time that could better benefit someone else? Atheists are also evangelists and do what we do–try to convert us to their side. So if two people are evangelizing each other, obviously it’s a waste of time. :o)

    • Rebecca LuElla Miller September 20, 2013, 8:27 PM

      I’ll say what I said above, Nikole, I don’t see how we can ever proclaim Jesus as Lord and have it be a waste of time. For one thing, we have no way of knowing how God might use the truth in someone else’s life. For another, we don’t know who else might be listening. I think, as long as an atheist wants to engage in a discussion, I should be willing to exchange ideas. I don’t for a second buy into the “compromise” garbage. There is no compromise when it comes to the two opposite sides of the Grand Canyon (I like Mike’s metaphor! 😀 ) But we can certainly tell them about the Bridge that will bring them where there’s help and hope and healing. Paul said God rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. Why wouldn’t we want to be a part of God’s rescue operation for someone else? And how do we know when we are or aren’t . . . except for the times when we remain silent or shut someone else down.

      Becky

  • Lelia Rose Foreman (@LeliaForeman) September 20, 2013, 7:30 AM

    I know there are happy, polite, sweet-natured atheists out there. But I’ve never met one. Maybe I need to get out more.

    • Janet September 20, 2013, 8:56 AM

      Fortunately, I don’t think there are many atheists out there. There are more agnostics. That’s why you can have a lot of face to face conversations with people, wherever you are – library, bookstore, grocery store, the street corner.
      I don’t think blog comments reflect the reality of face to face conversation – people don’t normally talk like that face to face.
      The internet has IMO, not helped with learning conversational skills and respectful debate. It has to be taught.

    • Nikole Hahn September 20, 2013, 11:39 AM

      I’ve met one. They are rare.

  • John W. Morehead September 20, 2013, 8:09 AM

    Take a look at http://www.religious-diplomacy.org/evangelichapter and take a look at the idea of religious diplomacy to see what you think about that. Surely there are alternatives to current Evangelical preferences for defensiveness, confrontation, and one-way proclamation without desires to listen, learn, exercise humility and hospitality as part of their attempts at persuasion.

  • John W. Morehead September 20, 2013, 8:13 AM

    Os Guinness’ The Global Public Square is the right proposal for our time: http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/code=3767

  • Janet September 20, 2013, 9:27 AM

    Dear Mike,
    excellent blog. I completely agree with your point: ‘Christians are doing a disservice to atheists by looking for “common ground.” The real important thing to distinguish between Christians and atheists is not that sliver of ground they share, but the Grand Canyon that stands between them.’
    And the Grand Canyon that stands between them and God first and foremost.

    With unbelievers, especially atheists, I don’t see how compromise, understanding,etc is possible. When I think of Paul speaking on Mars Hill, he didn’t engage them in trying to understand their beliefs. He knew their beliefs – the unknown god among many, and he used it in a purposeful way to draw them back to Christian teachings. There isn’t any give and take, going back and forth with ideas, like we do today.

    In witnessing, many years ago, to a Muslim student where I was working at a secular university, once we reached the point where I was saying Jesus is God, and he was saying no he isn’t – there isn’t any place you can go. There is no compromise, no understanding, no respect – I can respect his claim that Jesus isn’t God. But civility, yes, civility in discussion, and in saying goodbye.
    Like you point out – how can one possibility engage those people’s comments – in any sort of discussion? You just can’t.

    My question to you is, many Scriptures seem to speak to our form of conversation in relation to each other, brothers and sisters in Christ. Certainly, in Titus, there is the Scripture about be courteous to all people. But it seems that many of them, about about how we treat one another. So, have we missed it – is our understanding, respect and compromise suppose to be with our fellow believers in Christ Jesus?

    In Christ,
    Janet

    • Janet September 20, 2013, 9:28 AM

      ps> edit – that should read ‘possibly’

      how can one possibly engage those people’s comments

  • D.M. Dutcher September 20, 2013, 9:57 AM

    I agree Mike. I wonder if this will be a wakeup call for RHE to realize being accomodating and hoping everyone will play nice doesn’t always work, but I doubt it.

    I think a lot of Christians believe we not only plant the seed, we can water, fertilize it, and make it grow. That all the effort is on us, not just to witness the gospel, but to somehow prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. This leads to a dialogue arms race and an obsession with being a perfect enough Christian where we willingly take more abuse than we should. I think beyond proclaiming the gospel, we have to realize God is the one who convicts people, not us.

    • Abby Normal September 20, 2013, 10:53 AM

      Considering RHE gets comments like the ones Mike lists above from the secular side, while at the same time having her faith called into question by Really True Christians like yourself, I have to give her props for moving forward with the whole thing.

      • D.M. Dutcher September 20, 2013, 1:27 PM

        Moving forwards with what, though? She makes a mild plea for tolerance on a blog notorious for leftist/atheist interpretations of religion(and that pays her to be the former), and gets smacked down. The beef a lot of us have with her is not about her faith, but her ideas; she says what the world wants to hear from us and has gotten nothing but accolades from it due to that. The irony is that CNN belief blog is SO atheist (it’s been notoriously atheist-skewed for some time) that the readers even attacked her.

        It’s darkly humorous. RHE is literally what the world wants us to be; non-judgmental, affirming, accepting progressive views on sexuality, and soft on traditional doctrine. There’s really little functional difference between her and an atheist plus, and yet they still go after her for believing in invisible sky fairies the moment she steps out of line.

        • Janet September 20, 2013, 2:45 PM

          I read that RHE doesn’t believe Scripture is inerrant, or that Jesus is the only way to the Father, but teaches there are many ways to God. I am trying to find the exact reference from her (versus secondhand info) for where she says this or writes about this as a part of leaving her Christian unbringing behind.
          DM, do you know where I could find this or if you have read about her views?
          thx.

          • D.M. Dutcher September 20, 2013, 3:52 PM

            Janet, I don’t know. #1 of her thirteen ways she’s a lousy evangelical is that “inerrancy makes her scalp itch.” But she doesn’t really say straight out what she believes at times; she says it humorously, metaphorically, or through other people who might not entirely agree with what she says. So apart from her more concrete statements on progressive ideas like racism, classism, and gay rights, it’s hard to determine what she believes. There are her two books, which probably would be the best bet to find such in.

            • Jill September 20, 2013, 9:00 PM

              She affirms the apostle’s and Nicene creed. I don’t regularly read her blog, but she frequently affirms these creeds when people question her beliefs.

    • Rebecca LuElla Miller September 20, 2013, 8:40 PM

      David, I have to disagree on a couple fronts–not about your characterization about what other Christians might be doing. I simply don’t know what their motives are. I do see what Scripture says, however, and the point of telling atheists about Christ isn’t so that it will “work.” We’re not to base our actions on pragmatism. If it works, keep it as a strategy, if it fails, toss it out.

      Well, witnessing to non-believers got Stephen stoned, so pragmatically, that’s a bad strategy. But it wasn’t.

      Sometimes we are supposed to be punching bags. That’s why Jesus said to turn the other cheek. That’s why Peter had so much to say about believers suffering. Make sure you don’t suffer as a murderer, thief, evildoer, or a troublesome meddler, he said, but if you suffer as a Christian, don’t be ashamed, but glorify God in this name.

      Plus, we’re supposed to love our enemies. And we’re supposed to love our neighbors. Don’t atheists fall into at least one of those camps?

      Becky

      • D.M. Dutcher September 20, 2013, 10:29 PM

        I don’t think we’re supposed to be punching bags. This is more than not retaliating when suffering injustice, or making sure not to be punished for doing bad; this is about purposefully putting yourself into situations where all you can do is suffer, and others don’t listen. Yeah, we are to love our enemies and our neighbors, very true. But loving our enemy doesn’t mean they stop being our enemy or that we put ourselves in their power.

        Maybe it is a bit too pragmatic, but we’re human, too.

  • Abby Normal September 20, 2013, 11:02 AM

    Been there, done that, bought the Zondervan T-shirt.

    I’ve met atheists, angostics, Christians, Muslims, whatever, and they’ve all fallen along various places on the civility spectrum. I’ve come to realize that the only thing I can do is to get my OWN business with God in order and not worry so much about what everybody else does. If God chooses to use me to bring someone to Him, I’m certain that He’ll make it obvious to me. If He doesn’t, then I have to assume that He had some other plan.

    I’m done with twisting myself in knots in an attempt to “witness” and I’m done with avoiding relationships with people because their (suspected) godlessness might rub off, or something. It’s no way to live. Good freaking grief.

  • Thea van Diepen September 20, 2013, 2:03 PM

    I’ve decided to love people. Plain and simple. And my example for how to do that is Jesus, is God. That’s it. That’s my entire theory on how to treat people, no matter who they are or what we’re talking about.

    The details of how that looks can depend on the situation and the person, but the goal and the core is always to treat others with the same kind of love that God extends to them. Anything else is unnecessary.

    • Charmaine T. Davis September 27, 2013, 7:48 AM

      Absolutely agree! How will they know we are His? By our love. Take a moment to think about what love truly is–not the modern version of love, but Biblical love.

      There are numerous accounts of imprisoned and tortured Christians winning over their torturers to Christ by the love and patience they exhibited during and after their torments. (Richard Wurmbrand) “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

      • Janet September 27, 2013, 9:05 AM

        by our love for each other – love for other Christians is how they will know us.

        “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

        I think this is could be part of the problem, is that we are not very loving to one another and so people know us by something else. We do seem to be focused on the world and not really making disciples.

  • GEOFF WRIGHT September 20, 2013, 11:42 PM

    Probably one of the most powerful testimonies you can do for your atheist neighbor is put out their rubbish bins, or bake them a cake. Then pray for them and leave the rest with God. Only Jesus could make the blind see and the deaf hear….

  • random_b January 24, 2014, 1:55 AM

    Sticking your fingers in your ears? What a brilliant solution.

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