Yesterday marked the fourth day of our summer evangelism schedule. Three co-labourers joined me in spreading the gospel in Don Mills – what a joy it is to strive side by side for the faith of the gospel! Out of the four substantial conversations I had, the first three were with atheists (back to back to back). Here is an abbreviated summary of the conversations:
God is a Myth
Arthur and I met an elderly lady at the street corner. We made some small talk but quickly asked her about her thoughts on Jesus and her religious background. She said she was an atheist. For her, any stories about God = myth. She grew up in a United Church, was very involved, but eventually parted ways, convinced that Christianity isn’t based on truth but fancy ideas. She said, “It’s for the weak.” (She speaks better than she knows; cf. Mt 5:3).
She kept saying, “I don’t need God,” and “I’m fine.” Eventually I responded (gently, yet firmly) with, “Do you think you’ll be saying that on your death bed?” I went on, “Look, everyone dies; you will die. I will die. And judgement is coming. Are you prepared for that?” My comments on death must have triggered her thoughts of funerals. She replied, “You know, of all the funerals I go to these days, they don’t really mention God much any more. They’re memorials about the persons life.” (She went on to speak of how nice that is). She basically told us that times are changing; people are finally coming to terms with reality; there is no God. Christianity (and other religions) is basically for stupid people who can’t live with the reality that there is no God, no hope after death and so on.
We tried to talk to her about the historical facts about Jesus, but she wouldn’t have it; she seriously questions the reliability of Scripture. It’s all mythology in her mind. We had some other questions for her as we sought to engage her and weaken her confidence in her atheism. I told her that she is suppressing the truth about God, but in a candid way she simply told us, “good luck as you talk to others; better luck with someone else.” May God show her that she needs him.
Shortly thereafter, we approached another lady whose atheism was largely governed by her allegiance to science. I talked to her for a while about the usefulness and goodness of science. However, I also talked about it’s limitations, namely when nailing down issues of origins. The scientific method of hypothesis, observation, analysis and conclusion suffers in the study of origins; it’s too late to observe! She agreed and admitted that the theistic view of the origins of the world is no irrational. In fact, she said, “I know science and Christianity is compatible.” Even so, she prefers the atheistic model.
I spent some time arguing for a Creator based on the design in the world and then started to talk to her about morality. I asked her, “What is the basis for morality?” She said that it is cultural. And just as I was arguing for the incoherence and impossibility of her position, the bus arrived. I gave her some good Christian literature.
May the Lord show her that he is the Maker of heaven and earth. And may she come to worship the Son, who is before all things and in whom all things hold together (Col. 1:17).
“I Don’t Care” Atheism
Later on, I met a young man waiting for his bus. He was hard, tough and rugged. But he was friendly enough to carry on a conversation. I could tell it was an inner struggle for him to keep talking with me, but by the grace of God he did. He told me he was an atheist, had no religious background and didn’t really care about Jesus or anything about God.
When he told me he was an atheist, I asked him what he thought of Jesus. With a cool and slightly annoyed spirit, he said, “Well, maybe if he’d drop down here and say hello, I’d say, ‘What’s up.'” I responded, “You think that’s what it would take? Well, what if he did, but not only that, what would you do if he told you that he is from God, Christianity is the truth and you must follow him. Would you?” He said, “I don’t know.” (Thinking of Luke 16, I am doubtful that he would). He assured me that he doesn’t care about these things. He told me that needs to work and provide for his family; that’s it. He said, “Another day another dollar.”
I asked him what he cares about. He said, “family.” I affirmed the value of family and told him straight up: “Look, 10 years ago, there’s no way I’d be on the streets talking to people about Jesus. Something happened to me. I started to follow Jesus, but I didn’t do it without reason. There are reasons that lead me to follow Christ. Namely, that it’s true. This stuff isn’t just in my head; it’s real. God, Jesus the truth of Christianity; this stuff just is, and I’m gripped by these realities.”
He said, “What about all the other religions. So they’re all wrong?” I said, “Jesus said he’s the only way to God. And I believe it. But hey, he’s either right or he’s wrong. The claim may sound arrogant, but it’s not arrogant if it’s true.” He saw the logic yet still seemed quite sceptical.
Before long, he posed another objection, “But what about the Old and New Testaments; they teach different messages.” (I think he meant to say: “They are inconsistent”). I told him, “Look, the Old Testament is made up of 39 books and the main message can be summed up in one sentence: ‘Somebody’s coming.’ God had made a number of promises to his people. And the New Testament can basically be summed up in one sentence as well: ‘I’m here!’ God kept his promises. Jesus is the One who God has promised, and he brought salvation for us, those who have sinned and rebelled against him.”
The bus soon came and as I was warning him about the judgement to come, he said, “I don’t give a s#@t.” Then he said good bye. My heart really mourned over his hardness of heart. I believer Jesus is powerful to soften it. My goal was to put a stone is his shoe. By the grace of God, I hope it stays in there!
Well, that is a brief summary of part of Day 4. We had other more encouraging conversations with people who seemed more receptive, but I felt it wise to share about the difficulties of my conversations with atheists. Oh how they need the gospel and a worldview that can make sense of it! May the Spirit work in their minds and hearts.