The first part of this series discussed my recent conversation with a man named Bruce, who claims to have been a Baptist pastor for twenty-five years before becoming an atheist. My last post dealt with some reasons why this happens from both a theological and practical perspective. I don’t know Bruce personally and I don’t know what all has happened in his life. He is a very bitter man and reveals his bitterness in the words he writes. I suspect that like a lot of people, someone in the church hurt Bruce and this hurt has been the catalyst for his denial of Christ. While this may be the practical reason behind why Bruce is where he is, the theological reason, based on Scripture, is that Bruce never really knew the Lord, even as a pastor.
In this post, I want to talk a little about my experience with Bruce and his atheism. The entire experience was quite fascinating and there are several things that I learned from my discussion with him.
First, Bruce had to resort to ad hominem attacks. I think it is very unfortunate. For those of you that may not know what this means, Webster defines in this way, “appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect…marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made.” Typically this is the result of being put on the defensive and not having relevant facts to bring out in a debate or discussion. By default, a person then must attack someone personally in order to deflect away from their lack of facts.
This is not a surprise. Atheists like Bruce have no standard of truth. They have no premise from which to argue their belief system. Everything comes with the atheist as the standard. The Christian holds to a Biblical worldview and argues from a presupposition that the Bible is in fact God’s Word, and what it says is TRUTH! The best they can do is attack you for questioning what they believe (or don’t believe).
Second, Bruce was intellectually dishonest in many of his statements. A person is intellectually dishonest whenever they present (or don’t present) a set of facts in an argument and expect a person to believe only what was presented. Bruce refused to answer WHY he “chose” to reject all of what he had once believed. He would clearly state what he no longer believed, but never why. In the article that I commented on originally, Bruce stated that he did not leave Christianity because of feelings that were hurt and yet his entire article stressed that very thing. All he talked about was how he was hurt.
The real tragedy is that Bruce wore his feelings on his sleeve in his article. I know the place from which he came and I know that he was indeed hurt and has reacted to it. If a person like Bruce would just get honest about this hurt, we could get somewhere. I know so many people like him that are out there. They won’t go back to church because they go hurt by someone or something. In some cases, they chose sin over Christ and had to be confronted about it. This isn’t always done right, and it destroys rather than rebuilds and restores a person. If you are reading this and find yourself in a similar place, I would encourage you to stop and think about what is happening in your life. Are you really better without Christ? Is your future really better without Christ as its center?
Finally, I was reminded once of again of the power of the Scriptures. I want to be clear. I am a pastor and I wouldn’t be a pastor if I didn’t want to help people. I spend hours counseling people and helping them through things like addictions and marriage problems. No one would ever come into my church and say that they weren’t welcome and accepted. There is nothing wrong with a good debate. Unfortunately, Bruce tried to turn this conversation into an opportunity to malign Christians by making my comments (and me) out to be something other than what they were.
The reality is this…to not believe in God is a belief. Atheists have a set of beliefs regarding what they don’t believe. This carries them forward to a worldview and to standards of morality or immorality. Their religion is really no different than that of the Christian; it’s just that they hate God (and hide that hatred by saying they don’t believe in Him). I am sorry that the idea of absolute truth as found in the Bible bothers them, but for the atheist, there is no standard! Even worse, THEY are the standard! Whenever they are confronted with the truths of Scripture, their reaction is that they don’t believe it. The sad reality is that just because they don’t believe Biblical truth does not mean it isn’t truth!
God is the creator of this great universe in which we exist. There is no getting around the fact that there is a real creator God who made all of us and everything that surrounds us. Notice Scripture has to say:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:18-25, ESV)
More than that, the truth of God and His redemption is foolishness to the secular atheist. It isn’t a surprise, here is what God said,
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, ESV)
Simon J. Kistemaker makes the following comment about this passage in his commentary and it adds perfectly to this very subject,
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, born in 1844, belonged to a family of preachers. His father was a minister of the gospel and so were numerous ancestors of his mother. Studying theology, he developed a deep aversion to the Christian faith. He portrayed Jesus as a weakling who shamefully died on a cross in utter failure. Nietzsche despised not only Jesus but also all who believe Christ’s gospel. According to Nietzsche, Christians favor suffering, scorn riches and learning, and prefer the weak to the strong. For him, God was dead and Jesus a fool.
Modern secularists direct similar accusations against Christ and Christianity. They contend that Christ’s teachings are outdated and the Ten Commandments obsolete. They charge that Christian norms inhibit life, obstruct self-realization, and induce guilt. They teach that if we adopt human standards, we are liberated from the shackles of the Christian religion. However, God chooses the foolish and the weak things of the world to shame the atheists, agnostics, humanists, and secularists. He abolishes their manmade standards so that they face moral bankruptcy and reap a harvest of physical violence in a decadent society. In the meantime, God chooses the foolish and the weak things of this world to advance his church and his kingdom. He honors the work of insignificant and despised people who dedicate their lives to serving God and their fellow man. He delights in those people who set their lives in harmony with his Word and who glory in their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I will very directly say that I am committed to pray for all of these dear souls who are caught in the darkness of atheism and am happy to talk further with anyone who feels they are in a crisis of belief. May our gracious God have mercy!
 Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, vol. 18, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 66.