Many times in a conversation with an unbeliever a Christian will find himself faced with an apparent no-win situation. The unbeliever may say something like, “I could never believe in a God who arbitrarily lets bad people live and good people die.” Or, “How can you put your faith in a wandering sage who lived 2,000 years ago?” Or, “I can’t believe in a religion that cares more about making sure people don’t have sex outside marriage than about feeding the homeless.” What can you say to such an objection?
One of the best ways to handle an apparent no-win situation is to evaluate the question or statement itself. Do you really believe what they just attributed to you? In response to the questions asked above I would recommend responding with something like, “I don’t believe in a God who does anything arbitrarily either. I believe in a God who is the very source of justice, and who never does wrong.” And, “The Jesus I believe in was not a wandering sage. He was much more than that. Can I tell you about him?” And, “Christianity doesn’t care more about the one than the other. That is a false dichotomy, because the Christian faith considers both to be important.”
In other words, it’s OK to agree with unbelievers when what they reject is distorted, a caricature, or objectionable to biblical Christianity too.
Too many times, however, we are not listening carefully and find ourselves getting frustrated as we try to defend the indefensible.
I am more than happy to agree with the unbeliever that Westboro Baptist Church is evil, or that prosperity preachers are manipulators and exploiters, or that Christians sometimes do weird and wacky things.
I was at an atheists’ gathering not long ago, and the evening began with a litany of bizarre news stories about Christians doing strange things. This was essentially their entire case against Christianity—a coach making his players pray before a game, the Pope saying that all pets go to heaven, and the one-dimensional, stereotypical characters in the movie, God’s Not Dead.
When they were done laughing at the crazy nut jobs in the list, they asked me what I thought (they knew I am a Christian). I surprised them when I said that I thought it was wrong for a coach to make players pray, that I thought the Pope was whacked (and that I did not represent Catholicism), and that I thought God’s Not Dead was a weak and unhelpful movie.
Then I told them that none of those things had anything to do with the truth of the Christian gospel, and would they like to talk about what Christianity was really all about?
They did not.
But what they could no longer do was pat themselves on the back for being “rational” atheists, because I agreed with them on most of their points. This forced them to face the uncomfortable realization that they had not discussed even one good reason for rejecting Christianity. They were slightly embarrassed, and rightly so.
So the next time an unbeliever throws up in your face some distortion of the Christian faith, agree with him that it is bizarre, reprehensible, or just plain stupid, and then share the truth with him. You may leave him speechless. And that can be a seed planted for the gospel.