Tag Archives: Science

Day 4: Talking to Atheists

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.

Scientific Atheism

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.

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A Typical Afternoon and Talk about Science

Well, after a morning of catching up on administrative duties, I hit the streets in the afternoon (on Monday). And what did the bulk of my afternoon look like? Well, what follows is a brief overview, followed by a snippet from a conversation I had with a young teen about science. The purpose of this post is to give you a better feel for the nature and dynamics of this summer ministry:

Overview

1) went to Elmhurst and Islington bus stops (praying on the way for grace; was reminded that my primary aim is to please Jesus)

2) tried talking to a friendly lady from China – she said that she does not speak English (this happens often . . . I really need to have more tracts in other languages)

3) walked toward the plaza on the corner of Islington and Rexdale Blvd.

4) stopped at a bus stop to try to talk to man who looked really hard; I was reminded not to judge by outward appearance; I tried giving him a coin and talking to him, but he would not talk with me and even turned his back to me . . . indeed, he was hard

5) kept going toward the plaza and a boy happened to join walking on the sidewalk really close to me; just as he was about to hang back (or go ahead) I gave him a coin with the 10 commandments; he was going into grade 9; we talked for a while as we both walked toward the plaza (I will elaborate on this below)

6) went to the coffee shop to work on my lesson for the Grace Kids Remix service Wednesday night; part of the reason I go there is because I want the regulars (and there are MANY regulars) to get more and more familiar with me so that sooner or later they will feel more comfortable with me and I will hopefully be able to build friendships and have more open doors for the Gospel

7) Steve F. called and wanted to hit some bus stops; thus, I went back to meet him at Islington and Elmhurst; co-labouring in the Gospel gets top priority on my to-do list

8) arrived at the bus stops and met a Christian girl who is a friend of Chloe M. (from GFC)

9) had a great talk for a while with a man from Ghana (in West Africa); we had his NT open (which I had given to him) and we read Ephesians 2:8-9 (for he said that God would accept him based on God’s forgiveness AND the good things he does); he folded the page in half in his Bible (I think he was surprised and wanted to revisit this passage); it seemed as though he hopes we meet again – he has my contact info

10) hooked up Steve F.; he arrived and shared the Gospel with a Muslim man while I was talking with the man from Ghana

11) Steve and I talked to a high school student who goes to a United Church; upon giving him the coin with the 10 commandments on it, he assured us that he has been baptized and confirmed; we talked to him for a bit but the bus came – he also has the Gospel tract which is included in the NT we hand out

12) Steve saw a guy who he knows from local pick-up basketball – I prayed for Steve while he talked to him; just as Steve was getting into the Gospel the bus came

13) saw a man who I had preached to last summer, who actually came out to visit our church once; we talked to him for a bit, giving him a copy of the NT and inviting back to church; interestingly he said, “no, I do not have much money right now.” We insisted that we are not looking for money, and that coming out to church is for FREE  . . . he was thankful for the NT . . . it was nice to see him again

14) we walked back toward the church

15) we met a Hungarian lady on the way back who I had ministered to two summers ago; in fact, she also visited our church (at least a few times) two summers ago; I had preached the Gospel to her much two summers ago and even a bit last summer (I think), but she has sadly been infected by the teachings of the word-faith movement and the health and wealth gospel; this time, I simply gave her a copy of the Gospel presentation which I had typed up as an insert in the NT’s I hand out, and I encouraged her to read it to see what she thinks

16) we continued on back to the church

Well, that is it – a typical afternoon of evangelism ministry in Rexdale (though no evangelistic outing is ever the exact same). I am hoping and praying that, by the grace of God, the ministry at the coffee shop will look much different a few months down the road.

Talking about Science with a Grade Nine Student

He just happened to be walking right toward me. When he came onto the side walk I could tell that he was about to go ahead of me or lag behind. So, right away I handed him one of my coins with the 10 commandments on it. He received it and we both kept walking together. I asked, “do you have a religious background?” He said, “Buddhist and Christian.” I responded, “have you ever read the Bible?” He said, “no.” Thus, I reached into my bag and gave him a free NT. I explained to him how the Bible is made up of 66 books and that the NT is the last 27 books, which we have since the coming of Jesus. He did not seem to have a clue about the Scriptures, nor the 10 commandments, but he had heard of Jesus. I asked him of his age and learned that he is going into grade nine at a local high school. I talked to him about this for a bit and learned that he is nervous about going into grade nine.

I did not know how long he would be walking with me so I cut to the chase: “If you were to die today, do you believe that God, the God who created the world out of nothing, who is a person –  that God – would he accept you or reject you?” He seemed to be very interested in the way I modified God (as the God who created everything out of nothing), and responded saying, “Did you know that most scientists hold to evolution.” I said, “you mean, that all things came from nothing?” He said, “yes.” I said, “well, there are many who believe that, but that are also many who do not. I went on to talk to him about creation scientists and informed him of the many scientists are convinced that there must be a designer based on the evidence of intelligent design.

I pointed out the apartment building beside us and told him, “I know that someone built that; it did not just come to be.” He said, “obviously.” He went on to talk about the components of the bricks in some scientific lingo that I did not understand. I take it that he is really into science. I asked him if he knew about DNA. He did. I went on to explain that the design of DNA and all things in our world point to a designer.

Since I know that he has already been lied to about science and since he will likely keep hearing lies in high school, I thought it was a great opportunity to reason with him about the nature of science. First, I told him that the scientific process requires observation before conclusion. He knew this. This is basic grade 6 science. He agreed. Then I asked him, “how could people observe what happened before anyone was there? No one was there to observe.” He said, “they can’t, or it would take them millions of years to find out.” I said, “No, they can’t find out from science. No one was there to observe it; it is too late now. We are going beyond the limits of science when dealing with the question of how things began.” I told him, “now we are talking about philosophy and religion; we are talking about what to believe. People can offer theories, but this is not science.” I went on to tell him that the Bible says that God created all things, and that the Bible is God’s Word.

I told him not to believe everything he is taught from his teachers in science. I encouraged him, “have a critical mind.” I asked, “Do you have any younger brothers or sisters?” He said, “yes.” I said, “you know more than them, right.” He said, “yes.” Then I asked, “Are you always right? Should they always believe you?” He said with certainty, “no.” I said, “well, this is the way it is with your science teachers, though they have more education than you, they are not always right; you need to be a critical thinker.” I told him that science is great and that I really like science (for I do). I did not want to discourage him from scientific study, I just wanted him to be aware of the limitations of science. Accordingly, I had one more argument for him to consider.

I told him, “Science cannot prove itself. It is a practice with is based on a set of assumptions, such as, there is order in the universe, conclusions can be found, and other assumptions. These are good assumptions, but the assumptions themselves, that is, these ideas cannot be tested empirically.” I asked him, “Do you know what I mean when I say, ‘you cannot empirically test ideas?'” He said, “yes.” I think he followed my argument. I love science. We simply need to be honest about its limitations.

I hope and pray that he reads the NT and the Gospel tract which I gave him; I hope to see him around.