If you are proud of your faith but unsure how to respond when people criticize it, you're not alone. As Christians, we are called to be ambassadors of Christ, to preach the Word confidently and boldly. However, it can be difficult proclaiming the Gospel to people who don't share our faith or beliefs, no matter how strong our support of God is. Debating non-believers and atheists in particular can be tricky, and can sometimes lead to heated disagreements, full-blown arguments and broken relationships. Though you may have differing beliefs, you can argue your faith intelligently and confidently. Before arguing with atheists in support of your faith, consider these things.
If you are going to argue in support of your faith, be prepared. You will be debated. You will be attacked. It's just a reality of life as a believer. If you want to survive any argument, particularly one about God, you should be prepared to be bombarded with the questions that may be thrown at you. These arguments will counter your beliefs. Be ready to state your arguments relevantly and logically. When we enter into a relationship with Christ, we feel like we’ve found the secret to everything being good in life and want to profess it to others, particularly those we hold closest to us. Because of this, many of us make appeals to our atheist or agnostic friends, using emotional, faith-based language like “When I trust in the Lord,” “I can feel God at work in my life when…” or “God turned my life around after.” Though there’s nothing wrong with doing this, it’s just important to remember that when talking to non-religious friends that there is common perception that belief in God is simply motivated by irrational faith. When we rely on emotional appeals alone, we are ignoring the history of intellectualism and scholarship that is deeply rooted in the church. One of the greatest examples of this is Jesus’ and His own teaching. Through Jesus we see an amazing balance of faith and rationality. We can also go all the way back to figures like the apostle Paul, Augustine, and Niebuhr who argued faith with logic. There are great biblical scholars today like N.T. Wright who is a great example of this today.
Stay Away from Rude, Condescending Statements and Opinions
The same respect you want from the person you're speaking with is the same respect you should be willing to give. It's important that you not give them your unsolicited opinion about why the are an atheist. Not only is it rude and offensive, but it's also condescending and one of the worst ways to begin a dialogue with someone. Doing this can sabotage the dialogue from the beginning.
Are You Sharing the Same Definition of God?
If your atheist friend is referring to God as a fictitious man in the sky and you're referring to God as the creator and sustainer of the universe, your arguments may not land for each other. It's imperative that you know how the person you're arguing with defines God. Know that you may not be arguing about the same definition of God. If you think that you and your atheist friend aren't defining God the same way, you may be wasting your energy. Also remember that intellectualism is important.
Don't Look for Confrontation
When you get into a heated debate with an atheist, it's easy to feel you're being confronted, which leads to confrontation. It's important that you treat the debate as a conversation. Instead of viewing it as a confrontation, think of it as two people working together to get closer to truth. While there are large differences between Christianity and Atheism, the discussion doesn't have to turn into an explosive argument. You will be surprised how much progress you can make when both parties come into the conversation civil and humble. They will learn and appreciate what you're saying more if they know you are listening carefully and value what they are saying.
Remember, Evolution and Creation Aren't Mutually Exclusive
You can subscribe to Christianity and Science (yes, I said it). Most scientists (98 Percent) think humanity evolved over time, and many Christians also believe this. Though it is a common belief that evolution and creation are mutually exclusive, they aren't. Even if you're a Christian who doesn't believe in evolution or Science as it relates to creation, don't go down the rabbit hole with this one. Focus on the more important topic at hand: Jesus
It's OK to Be Honest
Don't start out being pretentious. As stated before, don't assume or suggest that them being atheist is a result of religion failing them in some way. Not only will this offend, but potentially cause greater confrontation. Begin the conversation from an honest space. It's ok to talk openly from the heart and admit that your belief is based on faith, if this is the case. Share your faith story and the impact having a relationship with Christ has had on your journey. You may even be called to acknowledge points where you've been weak in your faith walk, or how your belief in God was troubled, but how God intervened. While they may not share the same beliefs as you do, they will more likely than not have respect for your honesty and openness.