The whole area of apologetics and defending the Christian faith can feel like a minefield. Presumptious statements, shallow soundbites and point-scoring often take center stage in what should be a well-meaning, soul-searching and vitally important discussion. More often than not Christians and atheists struggle to have any meaningful dialogue.
Why is this? One biting question — that rarely gets brought up — gets directly to the heart of the matter.
Tim Barnett, an apologist with Stand to Reason, recounted a recent heated exchange at a faith discussion hosted at his church.
“I’m totally exhausted after speaking at three services this morning and Q&A tonight,” Barnett posted on Facebook. “One of the highlights for me was an extended interaction with a pretty aggressive atheist after the Q&A. This became an opportunity for me to model how to engage someone who, frankly, isn’t really interested in a dialogue or truth.”
Barnett continued: “Ironically, he kept telling me he only cared about what’s true. So I asked, ‘If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?'”
The apologist said that this question “literally stopped him in his tracks.”
“His answer revealed that he wasn’t really willing to follow truth wherever it leads,” Barnett concluded.
Barnett tells Faithwire that he employed the question after seeing fellow apologist Frank Turek pose it during his frequent speaking engagements.
Turek notes in a recent video, the arguments for Christianity often appear to remain unconvincing to the regular atheist, not because the evidence is lacking substantive weight, but simply because many atheists would rather refuse to acknowledge a decent argument than admit there might be a God that is sovereign over their lives.
Simply put, atheists often have their minds made up before entering into discussion with believers, and would deny anything that comes out of the mouth of a Jesus follower in order to protect themselves from being convinced of the Christian faith. In many cases, atheists don’t actually want a God, and they enjoy being Lord over their own lives.
“The one question I ask people who are not Christians is this ‘if Christianity were true would you become a Christian?'” Turek explains in the video. “If they say ‘No’ I say how is that reasonable or rational?”
“It’s not,” he asserts.
As Turek notes, the real problem here comes down to an affliction of hard-heartedness.
“They don’t want it to be true,” Turek says. “They don’t want there to be a God.”
“God is going to get in the way of what they want to do. Many atheists have admitted this to me. They have a moral objection to God,” he shares.
As Turek further elaborates in his video, most people “are not on a truth quest,” but are instead just seeking to maximize happiness in their lives.
“They are going to believe whatever they think is gonna make them happy. The problem is, you can make yourself happy over the short term by doing a lot of stupid things. But over the long term its a disaster,” Turek says. “The only way to get true contentment and happiness is to go straight through truth — and Jesus is the truth.”
Of course, the other questions to ask are this: What would it take to convince you? What evidence would need to be unequivocally proved as factual and reliable, for you to believe in God? That’s an interesting conversation starter. The problem is, often times, the specific issue taken up by many atheists in their philosophical arguments against God is hiding a deeper inability to accept the truth even if it was indisputably presented to them.
So how do you convince someone who does not want to be convinced but will do everything in their intellectual power to hide that fact? It’s certainly tough, Turek concedes.
“Just stay in their lives,” he advises. “Pray for them, love them, and maybe there will be an opportunity in the future.”