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:
- kalam cosmological argument
- cosmic fine-tuning
- galactic and stellar habitability
- origin of life / DNA
- molecular machines / irreducible complexity
- 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.
8 thoughts on “The worst mistake you can make when defending the Christian worldview”
My favorite logic-puzzle to present to an atheist goes as follows:
Q: “You’re a man who believes in ‘science’, correct?”
A: “Of course, that’s why I don’t believe in God.”
Q: “You’re familiar with the First Law of Thermodynamics…”
A: [interrupting] “Duh.”
Q: “which is commonly restated as ‘energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but can only change form’ or ‘the total energy of an isolated system does not change’, correct? And we agree that the universe is a closed system (a big one, but a closed one). Correct?
A: “Yes, that’s correct.”
Q: “You’re also familiar with the ‘Big Bang’ theory, correct? Which posits that the universe started in a tremendous explosion of energy and density and is still expanding…”
A: “Yes, basically.”
Q: “Query then, what went ‘Bang?’ If I understand you correctly, there was nothing…and then there was a big bang. But that violates your First Law. Not some obscure law, the VERY FIRST LAW?
And if you say “The thing that went bang was always there” you’ll need to prove that…..And, by the way, you just contradicted yourself. If there *was* something there (in order for it to go “bang” and not violate the First Law of Thermodynamics) then we’re back to square one. Where did *that* something come from?”
A: “So, like, yeah, I don’t believe in your giant sky-Daddy. because that’s too big a leap of faith.”
Q: “Really? Kind of like your giant leap of faith that you believe in something that disproves itself and yet you keep believing in it, even though the rules you assert disprove the hypothesis you propose? Like, that kind of faith? Sorry, even *I* don’t have that much faith.”
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I love it. That’s airtight as long as the person is not anti-science.
Ah, but WK, deep down, all atheists are anti-science.
They don’t believe babies are babies if they’re in the womb. They don’t believe in natural (or acquired) immunity to COVID is stronger (and better) than vaccines.
They believe masks prevent transmission of airborne viruses.
They believe in climate change is caused by man – even though it’s occurred as long as Earth has existed.
They believe in totalitarian socialism – which is not only a false deity – but a leading source of genocide.
They believe in “Green Energy”
They’re the biggest “faith believers” on Earth.
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Just like your advice to your friend, I’m not interested in playing a game where my dishonest opponent sets the rules and as soon as he realizes I’m going to win, he changes the rules and gaslights me that he’s not changing the rules. No thanks.
I’m interested in two things:
1. Discovering and following the TRUTH.
2. Convincing others to do the same.
I’m not a Christian because it’s easy. I’m not a Christian because it’s comfortable or makes me feel good or makes me popular. I’m a Christian because I’ve researched and investigated everything else and found Christianity to be TRUE.
Similarly, I’m married because it’s TRUE that marriage is God’s plan.
But marriage in a world of radical feminism and divorce? Hard.
Kids in a world of tranz indoctrination? Hard.
Morality in a world of relativism? Hard.
Christianity AND Marriage AND kids AND morality all at once? HARD.
But, they’re all ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT, if you have the judgment and wisdom and courage and conviction to do them the right way by keeping God front and center at all times in every decision. (Which, in itself is HARD.)
So, is any of this easy? In an odd way, yes. Following the constant and undeviating path of truth is WAY easier than than trying to please the fickle and cruel path of deception and untruth.
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That was extremely helpful. More details about scientific evidence for theism would be much appreciated. Perhaps earlier posts? Super advice. I’ve taken the bait and allowed myself to be sidetracked more times than I care to admit.
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If you like books, the only one you need is the new “The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith”. It has something about all the arguments related to the question of Creation and Design, with chapters from doctorate-holding scholars. It’s written at an introductory level and is more interdisciplinary.
If you want something at an intermediate level that is more focused on the origin of the universe, cosmic fine-tuning and the origin of life, then try Dr. Stephen C. Meyer’s “The Return of the God Hypothesis”.
We have other more technical books published big academic presses, such as “A Fortunate Universe” published by Cambridge University Press, and “Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology” published by Oxford University Press.
But start with the Comprehensive guide because it is comprehensive!
I tend to vary an approach but agree you don’t go to the end on Christianity.
I also tend to point out big bang demands a beginning. An eternal universe won’t work due to known heat death in big bang stating to will run down to lukewarm and that is solid evidence. Since our universe is not like warm it has not been around forever.
I then point out if they like a multiverse that speculation of non scienfically testable universes are as hypothetical as a beleif in a transcendent God so they have no path to win there.
And all ways to bypass big bang creation always redefine the word nothing to find some kind of matter or energy.
Even attempts to explain much of the universe anomolies can flip models mod discusion to make it true.
Christianity makes one consistent model to explain it all with a consistent use of terms. And for a logical mind it works best to explain evidence.
Now if they still listen we can run through many points as wintery states as you may have someone with an open mind if they want to keep talking at this point