• Jesus Loves Atheists

"We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can't disprove Thor, fairies, leprechauns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster." This statement by Dr. Richard Dawkins is often quoted in arguments against God's existence. Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, is one of the leading figures of what has been termed New Atheism.1

We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can't disprove Thor, fairies, leprechauns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

- Dr. Richard Dawkins -

The quote is interesting on two fronts: One, it owns up to the fact that people (the "we" in the quote) cannot disprove God's existence. And two, the quote seems to equate God to mythical lore and human fabrication—exactly Dawkins' intention.

Dawkins is correct in his understanding of the first statement—"we cannot…disprove God"—and misinformed on the second: most of the world's notion of God far transcends such an obvious and silly fabrication like a Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Dawkins, like many others, is vigorously opposed to the idea that there is a God or a supreme being. This belief system or position is called atheism. According to the Pew Research Center, 2.4 percent of the American population consider themselves atheist.2 The Pew study also reveals that atheists tend to be men (67 percent) and a significant portion is young people (38 percent are between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine).

Atheism is not new. The Sophists in ancient Greece questioned whether the gods were real, 3 as did many in the Roman Empire, including the philosopher Lucretius.4

Even biblical writers recognized that there were atheists. King David wrote in Psalm 14:1, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'"

The Bible teaches that regardless of our opinions of Him—whether we already believe in Him, come to believe in Him, or arrive at a position of no belief—God's attitude toward humanity is unwavering: He loves the world (see John 3:16). By extension of this truth (God's incarnation through Jesus, the second person of the Godhead), Jesus loves atheists.5

Definition

The word atheism is derived from two Greek words: a, meaning without, and theism, meaning god. So, atheism literally means without god.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary rightly defines atheism as both disbelief and a doctrine (meaning code, creed, or dogma).6 The atheist is one who feels that there are empirical reasons to believe that God does not exist (usually through the sciences). This is different from a similar belief, agnosticism (Greek: no knowledge), which teaches that God—if there is one—is unknowable and undiscoverable. Theoretically, the agnostic is unsure about God's existence, whereas the atheist believes that there is no God.

Discover

As you would expect, the Bible does not adhere to an atheistic (or even an agnostic) view of the world. The biblical writers demonstrated—and were proof themselves—that God is involved in all of history and humanity, from creation to consummation. Furthermore, the Bible teaches that God is personal and desires a relationship with His creation.7 However, the Bible does recognize the existence of atheism:

  • "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). The literal translation of that last phrase is simply no God, with the implication that the fool says, "No God for me"—an outright, personal rejection of God Himself.
  • "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20).
  • "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Develop

Like many thinking people, atheists are given to intellectual ideas and what they deem rational arguments. But atheism does not corner the market on intellectual inquiry. Many former atheists have become believers in Christ, driven primarily by an honest response to the evidence. Contrary to many atheistic claims against a theistic (belief in God) worldview, there are logical arguments for God's existence. Dr. William Lane Craig presented one such approach in Philosophy Now magazine. His approach covered eight points:

  1. God is the best explanation why anything exists at all. This can be seen in the syllogism (a formal logical system):
    1. Every contingent thing has an explanation of its existence.
    2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is a transcendent, personal being.
    3. The universe is a contingent thing.
    4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence.
    5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe is a transcendent, personal being—which is what everybody means by "God."
  2. God is the best explanation of the origin of the universe.
  3. God is the best explanation of the applicability of mathematics to the physical world.
  4. God is the best explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life.
  5. God is the best explanation of intentional states of consciousness.
  6. God is the best explanation of objective moral values and duties.
  7. The very possibility of God's existence implies that God exists.
  8. God can be personally known and experienced.8

Some of this is heady material and requires attention, study, and thought. The point in listing it is to help you develop a plan to reach atheists.

If rational arguments are not your cup of tea, an atheist can be reached, like all people, by the basic principles all Christians can engage in: prayer, love, service, and compassion. These principles are summarized in the acronym LOVE:

L—Listen to people. Get to know them, their situation, and their viewpoint. It's been said that people listen to only 10 to 30 percent of what someone says to them. Don't be that person. Listen with generosity and genuine interest.

O—Observe their life. Where are they coming from—emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually? What is it they're really saying through their actions and words? In other words, try to assess their worldview. What is the root of their beliefs? Knowing their worldview will help you develop a plan in answering the questions they may have. One researcher said that observation is a fine art. If this is the case, become a fine artist.

V—Voice God's truth. Here you'll need to do some homework. You need to discover what God has to say through the Bible concerning atheism. Then, get some good books and commentaries to assist you. Develop a plan of outreach, revealing what the Bible has to say about it. But don't just heap Bible verses on them. You need to go the extra mile to really minister to and discuss important topics with them.

E—Embrace them with the love of God in Christ. That doesn't mean you agree with them or side with them on a particular subject, but embrace them as God would you. One of the meanings of embrace is support. Don't support the sin, but do support the sinner. Keep Jesus the focus of your conversation and outreach.

Jesus loves atheists. Will you?

 

 

 

 

1 Google defines New Atheism as "a social and political movement in favor of atheism and secularism promoted by a collection of modern atheist writers who have advocated the view that 'religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.'"

2 Michael Lipka, "5 Facts about Atheists," October 23, 2013, accessed 12/19/14.

3 C.C.W. Taylor and Mi-Kyoung Lee, "The Sophists," September 30, 2011, accessed 12/19/14.

4 The BBC, "Ancient atheists," October 22, 2009, accessed 12/19/14. Lucretius (99-55 BC) was a materialist, meaning that he believed only in what could be sensed in the physical world. That led him to discredit the gods or any other supernatural source of creation.

5 This does not mean that God approves of their viewpoint. Just as God loves a sinner yet despises the sin, God loves an atheist but not his or her worldview.

6 Merriam-Webster Dictionary, "Atheism," 2014, accessed 12/19/14.

7 See Jeremiah 29:11 and John 1:10-14, among others.

8 William Lane Craig, "Does God Exist?," Philosophy Now, accessed 12/19/14.