Every once in a while, I run into a true atheist, but more often it’s someone who says they don’t believe in God, but haven’t completely rejected the idea of a “higher being.” (An Agnostic)
One of the first questions I ask them is this, “Please describe to me the god you don’t believe in.” This question almost always surprises them, so I give them some time to respond.
Generally, they will describe some personal experience with a Christian, or group of Christians who did not act very Christ-like. Or they, or a loved one asked God to heal a mother, father or sibling and he didn’t, deeply disappointing them. They may even point out “obvious” flaws in the Bible, or the church’s sinful treatment of people. “I wouldn’t want a god like that,” They say as if we mortals can ignore the true God, without terrible consequences.
When they’ve finished their stories, I’ll often agree with them. “That’s good news to me. I don’t believe in that kind of God either.” Trust me, no one can leave a statement like that go. They will always ask you to explain. Now you have a God ordained opportunity to explain the gospel to someone who just invited you to do so!
Most agnostics have either rejected the Christian God, or they have created one of their own making. I call him “the god of the Chamber of Commerce, or of the Rotory.” He’s the god we ask to bless our country, bless our food (whatever that means) and prosper our enterprises. This god says he loves us, therefore doing loving things for us is expected of him. He has some expectations for our ethical behaviors, but if we screw up, he’s the god of forgiveness as well. But a god of judgment, particularly harsh, eternal punishment, no way! This is a very user-friendly god.
The point of the blog is this; if someday you get in a discussion with someone who says they don’t believe in God, don’t argue with them. Just ask questions. But please be aware, they are often rejecting a god of their imagination and not Jesus. That’s the good news! I’ve found Jesus still has a better reputation than his followers.
I’d suggest you offer to read and discuss the Book of Luke or John with them. I’ve found non-Christians are sometimes reluctant to start studying a whole book of the Bible, because if they don’t like what they are reading, they don’t know how to walk away without offending you. So, I’ll generally offer to have a “”book discussion” for 4-6 weeks only. As we get toward the end, I’ll say to them, “I told you this discussion would go only six weeks. I want to be true to that. But if you want to continue our conversations, then email me, or call me and I’d be happy to do that. ” (Most do!) Please don’t put them on a spot by asking them for an answer immediately. Make it easy for them to say no to you.
Remember: It’s our obligation to explain the gospel and to live the gospel. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convince them it’s true, not yours!
How following Jesus works in real life.
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