Faithful Atheists

Posted: Oct 30, 2007 5:59 PM

A number of world-class “atheists” have authored books purporting to explain to us knuckle-dragging “Christian lemmings” why God’s a myth in league with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. And the mainstream media are beating publicity drums for the godless with a zeal that would shame a tent revivalist. To these media folk, I have just one word to say: Thanks!

In the 40 years that I’ve known Christ, I’ve enjoyed several memorable encounters with atheists that encourage me to continue sharing the Gospel. I like to ask the “No God–Don’t Know God” crowd to respond to the following hypothetical.

Suppose you awaken alone in your house with its doors and windows locked to find your table set with a scrumptious breakfast awaiting you. Which explanation satisfies you? Your breakfast always existed in its present form, or your breakfast organized itself from lesser matter? Maybe the eggs, ham and cheese just evolved into an omelet, the muffin popped itself into the toaster then rolled around in the butter, the oranges squeezed each other, and there’s coffee but no Mr. Coffee.

The response is usually an ontological admission, as in, “Somebody came into my house while I was asleep and fixed breakfast,” or a simple “I don’t know.” I’m amazed at the atheists who find it easy to swallow the big bang but not the evolving breakfast.

An optometrist responded to my mention of Jesus by saying he was an atheist. I said, “Doc, you’re an intelligent man. I doubt that your ego is so big that you’re claiming you’ve been everywhere in the universe simultaneously, and you can say unequivocally that there is no God. God could be popping popcorn in the next room for all we know.” He thought a moment, and said, “You’re right. I’m not an atheist, I’m an agnostic.” To which I responded, “Agnostic means you have no knowledge of God. You’re in luck. I do.” He laughed and we shared a cordial but serious discussion about the claims of Christ. A few weeks later, I received a postcard from him on his vacation cruise in the Caribbean. He thanked me for sharing my faith and motivating him to rethink his theology.

There was the guy who proudly proclaimed, “I’m an atheist.” I said, “God loves atheists too.” He said, “Oh, God, I hope so.” “Gotcha,” was my response. “Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about why atheism raises more questions than it answers.”

There was the young atheist who shared my concern about the proliferation of pornography, especially its availability to children. He knew of my Christian beliefs but didn’t want to talk much about it. I prayed for him for several years. One morning, he called me from an airport in tears. I wondered why he was crying when things had been going so well for him—a better job, a bigger house and a new baby. He said, “Jan, I’m terrified of flying because I’m afraid to die.” We cut to the chase because he was about to board another plane. “You need Jesus.” I explained the Gospel in the words of the Apostle Paul, and my friend opened his heart to Christ.

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

He called later from the next airport saying that he had flown for the first time without fear. “I knew if it crashed I would be with Jesus.” Now that’s a friendly sky. My friend has grown in his faith and reminds me each year on the date of his call.

As a lawyer, I’ve spent my career studying evidence. I’m quite confident that any objective and open-minded person who seriously considers the case for the empty tomb will be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Christ is the Lord of Life as He claimed. Those who criticize the resurrection as the best explanation for the empty tomb call it an argument from silence. But all they offer are irrational arguments from silence—the body could have been exhumed, somebody stole it, He didn’t really die, or everybody went to the wrong tomb. The evidence hasn’t been effectively rebutted in more than two thousand years.

Practically speaking, I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist. “Nobody + nothing = everything,” doesn’t cut it. And asking me who created God is an admission of cause and effect, not a rebuttal to it. God to the second and third power won’t end the question of the closed-minded.

The fact is, if you lined up all of the smartest unbelievers on the planet, and they took their best shot, the chance of them convincing me that Jesus Christ isn’t Lord is about as good as convincing me that my mother never existed. I know “Whom I have believed” and I know why.