The worst mistake you can make when defending the Christian worldview

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

So, this is just an advice post for doing apologetics.

Here are three situations I’ve run into while doing apologetics in the last month.

First situation. I was talking with a lady who is an atheist. I had a copy of “God’s Crime Scene” in my hand, and she asked me about it. I told her that it was a book written by the guy who solved the homicide case that I asked her to watch on Dateline. She remembered – it was the two-hour special on the woman who was killed with a garrotte. She pointed at the book and said “what’s in it?” I said, it has 8 pieces of evidence that fit better with a theistic worldview than with an atheistic one, and some of them scientific. Her reply to me was – literally – “which denomination do you want me to join?”

Second situation. I was talking with a friend of mine who teaches in a Catholic school. She was telling that she got the opportunity to talk to her students about God, and found out that some of them were not even theists, and many of them had questions. So she asked them for questions and got a list. The list included many hard cases, like “what about the Bible and slavery” and “why do Christians oppose gay marriage?” and so on.

Third situation. Talking to a grad student about God’s existence. I’m laying out my scientific arguments for her, holding up the peer-reviewed papers for each discovery. I get to the Doug Axe paper on protein folding probabilities, and she holds up her hand. One question: “Am I going to Hell?”

So think about those three situations. In each case, the opponent is trying to reject Christianity by jumping way, way ahead to the very end of the process. When you do Christian apologetics, you do not take the bait and jump to the end of the process dealing with nitty gritty details until you have made your case for the core of the Christian worldview using your strongest evidence. Let me explain.

So, your strongest evidence as a Christian are the scientific arguments, along with the moral argument. Those would include (for starters) the following:

  1. kalam cosmological argument
  2. cosmic fine-tuning
  3. galactic and stellar habitability
  4. origin of life / DNA
  5. molecular machines / irreducible complexity
  6. the moral argument

The problem I am seeing today is that atheists are rejecting discussions about evidence because they think that all we are interested in is getting them to become Christians. Well, yes. I want you to become a Christian. But I know perfectly well what that entails – it entails a change of life priorities. Both of the women I spoke to are living with their boyfriends, and the kids in the Catholic school just want to have fun. None of them wants to believe in a God who will require self-denial, self-control, and self-sacrifice. Nobody wants God to be in that leader position in their lives. Christianity is 100% reversed from today’s me-first, fun-seeking, thrill-seeking, fear-of-missing-out travel spirit of the age.

So, how to answer all these late-game questions? The answer is simple. You don’t answer any late-game questions until the person you are talking with accounts for the widely-accepted data in your list. These are things that have got to be accepted before any discussion about minor issues like one angel vs two angels at the empty tomb can occur. When we discuss all the basic issues where the evidence is the strongest, then we can go on to discuss issues where the evidence is debatable, then finally, in the last bits before the end, we can discuss these other kinds of questions.

How to explain why this process must be followed to the person who asks specific questions about minor issues? Simple. You explain that your goal is not to get them to become a Christian right now. That you want to let them believe anything thing they want. That’s right. They can believe anything they want to believe. As long as what they believe is consistent with the evidence. And what I am going to do is give them the evidence, and then they can believe whatever they want – so long as it’s consistent with the evidence.

So, for example, I’m going to tell them 3 pieces of evidence for a cosmic beginning of the universe: the expanding universe (redshift), the cosmic microwave background radiation, and the light element abundances. That’s mainstream science that shows that the universe came into being out of nothing, a finite time in the past. And I will charge them not to believe in any religion that assumes that the universe has always been here. For example, Mormonism is ruled out, they believe in eternally existing matter. See how that works? Hey, Ms. Atheist. You can believe anything you want. As long as what you believe is consistent with the evidence. 

I think this approach of not letting them rush you to the end at the beginning is important for two reasons. First, we can get our foot in the door to talk about things that are interesting to everyone, in a non-stressed environment. Everyone can talk about evidence comfortably. Second, we show that we hold our beliefs because we are simply letting evidence set boundaries for us on what we are allowed to believe. We can’t believe not-Christianity, because not-Christianity is not consistent with the evidence. And you start with the most well-supported evidence, and eliminate worldviews that are falsified by the most well-supported evidence. Atheism actually gets falsified pretty quickly, because of the scientific evidence.

So, that’s my advice. Had a friend of mine named William try this out about a week ago. It went down like this:

William to me:

This guy I know messaged me and bragged for a while about how easy he can dismantle Christianity. He said: “present the gospel to me as you understand it. I’ll simply ask questions to demonstrate it is not worth your belief.”

WK to William:

First of all, he isn’t allowed to just sit there and poke holes in your case, he has to present a positive case for atheism. Second, don’t discuss Christianity with him at all until you first discuss the evidence for theism – start with the good scientific evidence.

And William wrote this to his friend:

The way I’m wired is that I process all competing theories and go with the best one. By doing a comparative analysis of worldviews I find that Christian theology easily explains the most about the world I find myself living in.

I’m pretty sure that a God of some sort exists because of the scientific evidence for the origin of the universe and the fine tuning in physics. From there I find it quite intuitive that if a God went through the trouble of creating and tuning a universe for life that this God likely has some sort of interest in it and has revealed Himself to humanity in some way.

From there I can look at the major world religions and compare them to see which one explains the past and the present the best. Christianity easily comes out on top.

And then a few days later, I got this from William:

I finally got the agnostic to tell me what he thinks about origin and fine tuning. When I started pointing out that his views were unscientific, he blew a gasket, called me dishonest and told me he didn’t want to discuss anything further.

And that’s where you want to be. Cut off all discussions where the challenger tries to jump to the end and get you to debate the very last steps of your case. Present the strongest evidence for your core claims, and get him to account for this evidence within his own worldview. Lead the discussion with public, testable evidence. All warfare depends on picking the terrain, weapons and tactics that allow you to match your strength against your opponent’s weakness.

24 thoughts on “The worst mistake you can make when defending the Christian worldview”

  1. Sorry WK, they really don’t care about any of those arguments. They won’t understand the evidence for most of them. And the last thing they want to hear is that they are morally bankrupt. I spent 9 months debating morals with a gay coworker hours daily (we were monitoring systems that did nothing so all we could do was talk) and we didn’t even discuss homosexuality. We didn’t get past “why is murder wrong”. He thought it was a vote but wouldn’t accept that meant you could vote murder legal then. As for scientific arguments, people don’t care. Asking THEM questions like ” why do you” or “how do you define” will get you farther along. Dan Bongino has been repeating, “you can avoid an assertion, but you can’t avoid a question” or something like that.

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    1. For the fine tuning and origin of life arguments I just like the Illystra Media DVDs, Unlocking the Mystery of Life and Privileged Planet. There is no good next book up, it gets very advanced after that. Although the new Stephen C. Meyer book coming out this year should be one stop shopping for all the scientific arguments, and it will be easier to read than his more academic books.

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  2. “The problem I am seeing today is that atheists are rejecting discussions about evidence because they think that all we are interested in is getting them to become Christians.”

    The problem I am seeing today both in discussions online and in-person is that since “a lack of belief” is all that’s needed to define what atheism is or what an atheist is there isn’t any need for an atheist to care about an evaluation of evidence at all. On top of that is their list of complaints of things that are not LIKED about Christianity like the regulation of slavery or circumcision or any other thing. If any atheist evaluates a worldview simply by what is not liked evidence doesn’t matter at all unfortunately. I’m guessing that they have arrived at the epistemological stalemate since naturalism is the prevailing worldview in secular culture and therefore there is no need to defend one’s naturalistic worldview against a theistic one.

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    1. Yeah this is why you bring up the scientific evidence, so they have to choose between accounting for that from within atheism, or admitting that science doesn’t have any authority over their worldview. Which is surprisingly common for atheists, they just want to have a good time, and usually with someone else’s money.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Much of the apologetics articles on here become a moot point, especially with atheists, nihilist red pillers, the left, etc….etc. I say live one’s faith, take up one’s cross daily, become familiar with patristics, and allow the Holy Spirit to work. Evangelicals are a group that need to realize this.

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    1. I would say that people who think that evidence doesn’t matterare either not serious about truth (character problem) or they are not educated enough to understand the evidence (intelligence problem).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice post, WK!

    Couple of minor questions.

    1) ” You don’t answer any late-game questions until the person you are talking with accounts for the widely-accepted data in your list.”

    I like this one! My question is this: “What if the person you’re doing the long method with dies before getting to the Gospel?” Wouldn’t there be a little regret over spending a lot of time building a cumulative case that didn’t get a chance to birth into a complete Gospel witness?

    2) “‘When I started pointing out that his views were unscientific, he blew a gasket, called me dishonest and told me he didn’t want to discuss anything further.’

    And that’s where you want to be.”

    Well, as far as a net result, there’s not much difference between what happened here with the late-game, and what happens with an early-game abortion when they ask, “Am I going to Hell?”

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    1. 1) I don’t think people really accept the gospel by magic words. That worked in a pre scientific time, but it doesn’t work now where people come out of public schools with the assumption that science shoes that God does not exist.

      2) I’m not responsible for results. I think if people want to say “sex is more important to me than science when deciding what is true” then having them say that out loud is a good ending.

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  5. Speaking as an atheist, I completely agree that the first place a person should start if he wants to convince me of the truth of Christianity is to try to convince me that God exists. I personally don’t find any of the particular arguments which you’ve listed to be convincing, but it is certainly the right place to start with a person like me.

    There are, however, quite a number of self-described atheists or nones who won’t particularly care about that. They’ll jump straight to the problem of evil or purported Biblical contradictions or emotional and social considerations. Not every atheist is philosophically minded, just as not every theist is philosophically minded.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very good. And basically the tack is to say how do you account for (for example) the fine-tuning of the universe for life in your worldview, since the fine-tuning is a scientific fact. (See “A Fortunate Universe” or “Just Six Numbers”)

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      1. I suspect that you and I will have disagreements on the question of fine-tuning, but that is absolutely a fine place to begin a dialogue with a person. My Thomistic friends, particularly Catholics, tend to begin with Aquinas’ Five Ways. Some of my other friends prefer something like Leibniz’s Cosmological Argument.

        In any event, these sorts of dialogues can certainly get both sides thinking.

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        1. In fact, the Fine-Tuning Argument is what turned the 20th century’s most influential atheist, Antony Flew, from an atheist to at least a deist before he died.
          I personally am not a Catholic so cannot speak for Aquinas’ Five Ways, but are you familiar with William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument? It’s short and to the point. It also appears to be logically airtight, and based on the latest science.

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          1. Mark, I am intimately familiar with the Kalam and particularly Dr. Craig’s formulation of it. I’ve written about it at length on my own blog. Far from airtight, I find it to be entirely lacking and wholly unconvincing.

            It is, however, a decent starting point for a conversation between a believer and a non-believer.

            Liked by 2 people

      1. Again, I respect your position. Do you have time to elaborate on exactly why/how you find it unpersuasive? I’m afraid I might not be able to respond promptly, but I’d still be interested to hear (I work nights and have to hit the sack).

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  6. One certainly has to continue the debate as long one feels is necessary but one is also justified in a deciding that there is a point in which one is simply casting your pearls before swine.

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    1. Yes and I think that if a person says “I don’t accept the standard cosmology that says that the universe began it if nothing” or “I don’t accept the fine tuning even though it’s in academic books” or “unseen aliens seeded the earth with life because star trek” then it’s pretty clear the time to stop has come.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome. I think this is important we are going to lose trillions of dollars of output, thousands if jobs, not to mention health damage because of these left wing fascists.

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