Meeting with Skeptics, December 2012

Some time ago (perhaps a month or so) the NCAC received an email out of the blue from a couple of guys who were looking for somebody from a Christian background with whom they could discuss some of life’s bigger questions. It seems they were under the impression that most Christians would not take too kindly to having somebody ask hard, but honest, questions about their faith. Whether their concerns are justified or not is a topic for another day. In this blog post I want to share (with their permission I might add) a few notes about themselves and what we ended up discussing. This summary should be useful for people who are interested in knowing what kind of questions people probably want to ask of Christians.

But first, a little about our new friends. Bob and Bill (obviously not their real names and obviously I have a very poor imagination for fictitious names) did not assign their present views any particular title like Atheist, Agnostic, etc. They both came from nominally religious backgrounds (not Christian, though) and they seemed legitimately open to the prospect of God’s existence, though they felt it is impossible to prove either way.

They wanted to share a bit of their background and wanted to hear our backgrounds as well. We all shared major highlights of our life stories, at their prompting, which I thought was an excellent place to start the discussion.

Major topics discussed that evening included:

  • Morality and the nature of right and wrong. Is morality objective in nature or not?
  • The relationship between God, the Bible and morality.
  • The Bible, how to interpret it, and which doctrines are foundational versus which are corollaries of the foundational doctrines.
  • How can it be God’s word when there are so many interpretations? What, exactly, is God’s word?

Other topics that were touched on included:

  • Religious extremism and problems with specific Christians
  • Religion is inherently static, it does not lead to progress. It cannot change because it believes it reflects unchanging values.
  • Various social issues (i.e. homosexuality, abortion, etc)
  • Hell
  • The problem of evil / suffering including the idea that when something good happens we say God is good and when something bad happens we say God is mysterious. That seemed to them rather arbitrary.
  • Are humans inherently good or corrupt?
  • More about the Bible, like its role and nature, and why are there 66 books as opposed to more or fewer? What to make of authority versus inerrancy of the Bible?
  • What is the evidence for God?

In the end, one of the gentlemen specifically said he wanted something to think about when he left, so he asked one of our guys to clarify his comment that the problem of evil is just as much (or perhaps more) of a problem for Atheism than for Christianity. For others who are interested, here is one article that attempts to address this. One nice summary of the reason this is a problem for Atheism is this,

The point is that when you talk about evil and suffering, it pre-supposes that the world is not the way it ought to be. But that means that the world ought to be some way. If the world “ought to be” any way other than it is, then that pre-supposes a designer, who had a purpose for the world, i.e. – a way the world ought to be.

They ended off saying they would like to continue the discussion another time, perhaps even meeting regularly. This was deeply encouraging; not only could we disagree with each other, but we could do so in such a manner that all involved want to continue exploring the disagreement!

Here are a few personal observations I would like to add about this entire process:

  • How did we reach a point where these subjects are “taboo?” To what extent is the Church contributing to this? Why would these gentlemen feel as though they needed to seek out “special” Christians who would not only be willing to engage the discussion without flipping their lid or something, but also cared enough to have the discussion instead of ignoring it?
  • To what extent are Christians being prepared to have these conversations? Are these subjects being addressed from the pulpit? Are they being covered in adult Sunday school? Perhaps in lifegroups?
  • The fact that we had such a cordial conversation also reveals that not all who challenge Christianity are necessarily “anti-” Christian. It was refreshing to dialogue with those who did not agree with us, but were nonetheless able to discuss the issues respectfully and open-mindedly.

If you have any suggestions of resources that might be of use in addressing any of the topics that are listed above, please add them in the comment boxes below. I am fairly certain the gentlemen involved will read this, and they seem sincerely interested in exploring these matters.

About Paul Buller

Just some guy with a variety of eccentric interests.
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