One of the biggest things young Christians need to be prepared for are those who will challenge their beliefs. If you fall into the young Christian category, 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. Here are seven things young Christians should be prepared for.
People Who Will Debate You on Your Beliefs
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. As a result of this, many of us make appeals to our atheist or agnostic friends, using emotional, faith-based language like “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.
Questions You May Not Be Able to Answer
Nonbelievers will argue that if God was all-knowing and all-powerful, he would rid the world of all evil and suffering that comes along with it. It’s in His hands right? So if evil does exist, that means God isn’t all-knowing or all-powerful. This kind of talk is of the enemy in order to sabotage your faith in Christ. Don’t fall victim to this deception. While it’s hard to argue that evil doesn’t exist in the world (you can open any newspaper and turn on the network news to see this), the evils of this world are not of God, but of the enemy. People make harmful choices that reflect evil. That doesn’t negate God’s existence.
There are also many stories in the Bible that Atheists will challenge like the creation narrative and the flood, because they believe those events aren’t backed up by science or archaeology. They claim that these are just “stories” in a man-made book. But the "Bible isn't backed up" argument is a common myth. Despite claims that the Bible lacks evidence, the stories are inconsistent, and that the stories have changed throughout centuries, physical evidence actually shows something else. Archaeology has shown us that the Bible does correspond with historical reality, especially when it comes to the New Testament. Also, look at the Bible’s consistency. Even though the Bible was written over many centuries with many different writers, the message within the book is still consistent.
Condescending Statements and Opinions
Another thing you must be prepared for are rude, condescending statements and opinions about Christians. You should be mindful that there are people who have not had the best experiences with Christians or have warped opinions about Christians based on their own beliefs. That’s why it’s so important for us to reflect love to those around you, including people who don’t share the same beliefs that you do. 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 they 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.
People Who Don’t Share the Same Definition of God
You may be surprised by the fact that people hold different definitions of God, at least who God is or what they believe God represents. That's why it's important to know what definition the person you're talking to has 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.
Anxiety and Confrontation
When you talk to people who don't share the same beliefs as you, conversations can get pretty tricky. There may be a lot of sensitivity around certain topics. 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.
Questions about Evolution and Creation
A common question that comes up for atheists to Christians is around evolution and creation so be prepared for these questions to come up in conversation. These talks may even turn into heated debates. However, you shouldn't worry. There are some Christians who believe you can’t subscribe to Christianity and science, but the truth is, you can. Most scientists believe that 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.
Those who don’t believe in God may make assumptions about you as a Christians and you may make assumptions about them. The last thing you should do is 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.
If you’re on the road to mature discipleship, it’s important that you have a destination, an ultimate goal. Author Stephen Covey describes ultimate goal in his bestselling book “The 7 Habits for Highly Effective People” as beginning with the end in mind. Ask yourself what that goal is. Also, ask yourself what would the “full bloom” of discipleship look mature discipleship look like? If you're even exploring these questions, you're definitely on the right track on your discipleship journey.