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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Don't Just Tell; Ask Questions of that Atheist

I was talking this morning with a friend who went to a wedding over the weekend. He said, "Would you believe my relatives and the people we sat with at the reception were all atheists? It was so hard to try to relate to them and look for an opportunity to share Christ. One of the men there was someone I'd shared with before but he just blew it off. Is there any way you know to share my faith with them?"

With no brilliant answers to his question, all I could say was, "Yes, that is hard. I guess we can just love them and be available."

But then I began thinking more deeply and I replied, "Another option is to ask questions instead of trying to tell them theology or try to convince them."

My friend looked interested and I explained what I meant. Maybe we could ask questions like,

    Trendy Young Women Having A Discussion Stock Photo
  • Tell me more about how you came to the conclusion that there is no God. Tweet that!
  • Did something happen in your past that convinced you that there is no God?
  • If there were a God, what do you think he would be like?
  • What kind of God do you feel like you wouldn't want to believe in?
  • Did your idea of God, or there being no God, solidify based on some disappointment? 
  • What prompted you to reject the idea of God's existence?
  • What was your childhood like in relation to believing in God?
  • Did your parents believe in God? How did they model God or not model God?
The more I thought about this idea of asking questions, the more I could see value to it. It would hopefully show respect for their opinions. It would hopefully be perceived as a loving response by showing interest in their lives. Plus, we aren't trying to do what so many unbelievers accuse us of: "Christians just try to ram religion down my throat."

Such questions invite dialogue; thus hopefully opening the door to further witnessing. Tweet that!

Jesus was the master "asker." He knew a person's heart, yet He asked them questions. Remember what He said to the paralyzed man by the pool? "Do you wish to get well?" (John 5:5-7). His questions helped people get to their hearts' motives. Maybe questions such as those questions above will help people get in touch with why they believe what they believe. 

What questions can you think of that would be appropriate talking to someone who doesn't believe in Jesus or is uncertain?

Have you had any experience of asking these kinds of questions? What happened?

(Photo by stockimages at www.freedigitalphotos.net)


  1. Your questions assume certain presuppositions. You use the word God but what you really mean is the masculine (based on your use of male pronouns) Christian God. So are you asking if a nondescript deity of some sort exists or are you asking the atheist why they don't think your version of God exists? Before questions about a specific deity can be answered, questions about the existence of a deity/deities at all must first be asked and answered.

    I find it interesting that many of your questions focus on the false Christian notion that people become atheists due to hurt or some other emotional reason. While this certainly can play a part, most of the atheists I know deconverted because Christianity failed to withstand their intellectual investigation of its foundational beliefs.

    1. Bruce, I really appreciate and value your comments. Yes, I do make assumptions on my blog because my readers primarily are Christians and we believe in the God of the Bible. If I spent every blog post explaining my "version of God" and why I believe in Him, I wouldn't be saying much else. So yes, I do make assumptions and I don't apologize for that.

      But I do apologize for being too general in giving the idea that atheists would only become atheists due to an emotional reason. I can see your point that there are many reasons and I acknowledge that now. Thank you for your input.

      May I ask if you are an atheist? If so, I and my readers would love to hear why you are. Or please share with us the other reasons given by atheists you know (other than the intellectual one you've already given). I would be very interested in knowing.

      Thank you for stopping by my blog. Again, I value your input.

    2. Yes, I am an atheist. I spent 50 years in the Christian church, 25 years as an Evangelical pastor.

      I am an atheist because I do not think the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible text. I don't think the claims that Christians make from the Bible can be rationally sustained. Claims like a virgin having a god-human, dead people becoming alive again, and the plethora of miracles attributed to a human by the name of Jesus. While I think Jesus was a real person who lived and died, I reject the supernatural claims Christians make for Jesus. Bottom line? Believing the Christian narrative requires faith, a faith I do not have.



    3. Bruce, I'm sorry to take so long to reply. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and beliefs. As I've considered your reply, I've wondered what first prompted you turning away from "faith," since I assume you had some sort of faith while being in the Christian church? Was there a defining moment when you turned a corner and looking back, identify you going in a different direction? Thank you for sharing more with me if you're interested. I really don't know anyone who is an atheist and it's interesting to me. If you'd prefer emailing, my email is kathyspeak at aol dot com. But my readers may find your answers interesting also. Thank you!

  2. The locus of my deconversion was the Bible itself. Even though I had been an Evangelical pastor for 25 years, I decided to take a careful look at the claims Christians make for the Bible. Once I came to the conclusion that the Bible was not inspired, infallible, or inerrant, that it was just an errant book written by fallible men, things fell apart fairly quickly for me. I tried to find some sort of resting place on the slippery slope that would allow me to keep some modicum of faith, but I could not do so.

    As a pastor, I was considered an intellectual, a person who always had his nose in a book. I am still this way today. More than a few Christians have told me that I need to quit reading books and just read the Bible. :)

    Sadly, most Christians know very little about atheism and atheists. They tend to repeat whatever they hear from the pulpit. Most of the atheists I know were once devoted followers of Jesus. They want Christians to accept them at face value and allow them to tell their own story. Unfortunately, many Christians can not understand or accept anything that does not fit their narrow theological grid. That's why I don't argue with or debate Evangelicals.

    Hope this explains my story a bit better.

    1. Thank you again, Bruce, for sharing your heart and story. I'm grateful for your perspective so that I can understand more where you're coming from. Please feel free to make any other comments you'd like. The best to you!