Answering an Atheist - Part 1

In this first article from Come Reason Lenny eavesdrops on a discussion taking place between a believer and an atheist. Read on to see how Lenny responds to the objections raised.

The following is excerpted from one of the Christian newsgroups in the Net. I felt this is an excellent way to show some of the inconsistencies that people will raise as being "logical". The posting is from Rod Monsees objecting to the response Dan Adkins gave to a previous message. The comments preceded by the ">" sign are from Adkins.

After I published this page, I sent a copy to Rod. The second page contains his responses to my statements and my replies to him. If you wish, you may click on the link following each point, and it will take you to the continuing debate; or you may just read the article from top to bottom.

From:Rod Monsees Subject: Re: The Trinity is Logical...Here's Why Date: 1 Mar 1996 19:02:38 GMT

Dan Adkins wrote:

>> Nathan, as a former atheist myself, let me say you speak well. I understand your inability to relate to some of the statements you were responding to; but your inability is based in your rejection of the concept of the supernatural, and belief in the Almighty, supernatural God is the basis upon which the Christian faith is built.

I share Nathan's inability. Having faith means coming to a conclusion without examining evidence or using logic. You simply accept what your religious teachings say is true, without critically examining those claims. Produce some evidence of the "supernatural", and then we can talk. Of, course, if there's evidence, it's no longer supernatural is it? Observable things are (by definition) part of the natural world.

First, here is a classic mis-definition. Faith DOES NOT mean jumping to a conclusion without examining the evidence. It means trusting in that of which you don't have full knowledge. When a man sits in a chair for the first time, he doesn't know with no doubts that the chair will hold his weight. He observes the chair, judges it sound based on what he sees and his past experience, then sits down. He has faith that the chair will support him. Everyone exercises faith every day. The question is whether the evidence upon which that faith is based is sound.
Rod's Response

Then, we are asked to produce some "evidence of the 'supernatural'". The Bible has eyewitness accounts of supernatural phenomena. Eyewitness accounts are considered admissible in a court of law. The eyewitness' testimony is judged as trustworthy based upon their grasp of the facts. The interesting thing is even the skeptics agree that the Bible contains historically accurate data, unless it refers to a miracle or an unexplainable wonder. Those are the parts they deny. (By the way, the definition of supernatural is: "not explainable by known natural forces or laws", NOT unobservable.)
Rod's Response

>>Yours is a belief that if you are a "good person," then, even if your atheism is wrong, you are worthy of entry into heaven. Under the Christian faith, of which I am a member, you are wrong. No "good deed" wins entry into heaven. God allows those into His eternal presence who are righteous; none can be righteous who are tainted by sin; all have sinned, therefore none can enter heaven. Except those who have accepted the atonement for their sin that was offered when Christ became a sacrifice on the cross. Through their faith in Christ, they become righteous.

So, you can commit genocide, perform terrorist acts, dismember children, etc., etc. and as long as you ask _forgiveness_ sometime before you die, no problem. That sounds like a pretty poor system of morals to me.

Dan does a reasonable job in presenting the Christian belief of justification. Everyone has sinned at some point in their life. No reasonable person would deny that fact. The righteousness that God requires was satisfied by Jesus Christ. He never sinned. By believing in Him, His righteousness is imputed to us through His sacrifice on the cross. That is the belief of Christianity.

Rod asks how one can commit heinous crimes and still be forgiven. If God is a holy God, then He cannot have sin in His presence. Think of a glass of purified water. If there was a filter that could purify water to 100%, then how much sewage would it take to make that water impure? Half the glass? A drop? No matter how small or how large the amount of sewage added, the water is no longer pure. No matter how small or how big the sin, God would not be holy if He allowed it in His presence. (James 2:10)
Rod's Response

>> Now, you probably are thinking, but that's not fair. Fair is an interesting term. It is a term that humans use frequently...but I honestly cannot recall a single instance in Scripture where God is described as "fair." He is described as perfect, all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful...but not fair.

Isn't there a basic contradiction here? How could he be "all-loving", but not fair? Isn't that like a parent who claims to love a child, but dishes out punishment solely on whether the child expresses a particular belief? How could that remotely be called "all-loving"?

This is where Dan may blur his message. True, the Bible doesn't describe God as "fair". The Bible presents God as an all-loving father. However, most people fail to realize that He is also a holy God and a God that demands justice. He wouldn't be loving if He didn't demand such. God is a just God, and all sin must be judged. However, He knew we couldn't meet His perfect standard, so much like a loving father who pays the fine for his adolescent son, He sent His Son to live the perfect life, then take our penalty in our stead. This satisfies His requirements for justice and allows us the opportunity to again come into fellowship with Him.
Rod's Response

>> That's because He also is not much on compromising. Rarely in the Bible does He compromise.

Sounds pretty much like a petty dictator.

This is just an ad-hominem attack. I don't think Rod would like his surgeon to compromise if he was undergoing open heart surgery. Nor would he like an airline pilot to compromise on a safety checklist before his flight took off. Absolutes are important. If God would allow some evil to exist, which should it be? One can quickly see the futility of this argument.
Rod's Response

>> Sometimes He changes His mind (read Jonah); sometimes He makes the Way to Him easier for us (accepting Jesus). But he does not meet the human definition and expectation of "fairness" -- and we should be glad He does not.

Yes. We should all be glad that Hitler could now be spending his time in Heaven. All he had to do was ask forgiveness just before he committed suicide. Doesn't that make you feel glad?

Again, how much sin does it take to make the pure impure? Hitler's sins were heinous, and Jesus does say that those who face judgment will be punished in degree of their sin (Luke 20:47, Matthew 11:27), but if God is all-powerful, He is powerful enough to forgive anyone's sins. That is provided they receive the remedy provided for them.

I often find it interesting that the non-believer has a certain set of ethics; but I often wonder on what are they basing them? Hitler did what was legal in Germany at that time. Was he still right? Of course not, but why? Ultimately, to have an ethical standard that transcends all governments or man-made institutions, one has to look above mankind. That again brings us to God. The Nuremberg trials that convicted many Nazis for war crimes argued the same. They had committed crimes against God and man.

Dan is in error on a couple of points: God does not relent (change His mind) as humans think of it. He is unchanging or immutable (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). When passages of scripture speak of God as "changing His mind", it is only from the human point of view. God knew the Ninehvites would repent, so He tells them they face judgment unless they do. Whether he is "fair" is not in question. God is just, even if we don't see all the parameters in which He's dealing. Again, a child may complain that a scolding parent "isn't fair", but when he reaches adulthood, he understands the reasoning for the punishment was the child's own good.
Rod's Response

>> The fact is, we -- Christian and non-Christian alike, believer and atheist alike -- do not deserve to enter into His presence.

Why not?

No one would want a God that looks away at sin. Rod demonstrates that himself when he complains of Hitler being able to be forgiven. Though we don't deserve to enter His presence, He has provided a way for us.. by allowing the righteousness of His Son to be imparted to those who accept Christ. Thus, God sees us with the purity of Jesus, and with His righteousness, we can enter His presence.
Rod's Response

>> To think we do because we have been "good people" is prideful and pompous, the very features He most abhors.

Pride and pomposity is thinking that an infinitely powerful all-knowing being is personally interested in _you_.

What Rod says would be true... if we hadn't been told otherwise. This is the thought of which most unbelieving people are the most afraid: that an all-powerful God is personally interested in YOU. That is what the Bible is all about. Ironically, this idea is also the most comforting, if you know Him. Jesus is the source of refuge and protection for the believer, or the point of judgment for the non-believer.
Rod's Response

>> If He were fair, He would not have sent His Son to us, to become the Lamb of God, the unblemished Sacrifice for our sin.

What sacrifice? You _do_ claim Jesus still lives, don't you?

Though we believe Jesus does live, we also believe he "was marred more than any man" (Isaiah 52:14) and still felt the agony of torture and death. More than that, He gave up His privileges as God to live forever as a man. (Philippians 2:6-7)
Rod's Response

I hope you've found this dialog enlightening. I think it shows many points where some basic study in logic can help the believer adequately answer those with doubts or who may be opposed to Christianity. Please let me know what you think.

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