PERSPECTIVE: The ‘atheist’
Since the hours of my day are spent in the company of Christians, travel brings opportunity for me to witness. So taxis, planes, airports and restaurants provide the setting where I have the privilege of speaking a word for Jesus. This being so, I will tell you I have rarely spoken with someone who is a thoroughgoing atheist. Agnostic, yes. Atheist, no.
Last week while returning from a preaching engagement in our partner state of Utah, God provided me an opportunity to engage with an atheist. It was as fascinating as it was tragic. I was on a shuttle from an outlying city to the airport. As God would have it I was the only passenger, so I rode in the front seat and took advantage of the 90-minute ride to talk with the driver.
He asked what I was doing in Utah. I told him I was there speaking. He wanted to know what my topic was. That was a wide-open invitation for me to share the love of Christ because, as you would expect, I had talked about Jesus in my sermon. Indeed it does not matter if my topic is stewardship, I always present Christ crucified, risen and soon to return. He listened very respectfully and intently to my short witness for Christ. He then said he was respectful of my position and had seen how “religion” was helpful to people, but that he was a non-believer. I asked him to explain.
His viewpoint was nothing I had not heard or read before. Yet I will admit, the words of this 70-year old man as he expressed his unbelief pierced my heart. He told me that he did not believe there was a higher being. He believed that the Earth was formed by a big bang. I stopped him to ask from where the material for a big bang had come and he had no answer. The gentleman proudly described himself as a pure evolutionist. He does not believe in an afterlife, but thinks that when a person dies, he simply returns to dust and life is over. His view is not new, but to hear a man speak so calmly of a hopeless eternity tore at my heart as I considered the true end of those who refuse Christ as Savior. He believes Jesus existed, but He could not have been virgin born. His perspective on the Bible was that it is a very fanciful fairy tale—one to be equated with Aesop’s fables. Good moral teaching, but nothing more.
I thought it might be helpful to share some observations about this encounter. First, atheists have enormous faith. I told the man that his faith must be stronger than mine. To believe the beauty we see all around us and the complexity of even the simplest organism, much less a human being, was produced by a big bang and evolutionary process required far more faith than to believe there is a Supreme Being. Obviously, to believe in evolution and its giant leaps demands gigantic faith.
Second, it does matter what we believe about beginnings. A person’s worldview is formulated from the bedrock of our concept of how things began. If one rejects the hand of God in the creation of the world and man, he rejects God at the most fundamental level. Some think evolution and the issues of origin are of minor consequence. I suggest an individual’s view of creation impacts the whole of that person’s view of life and faith.
I am convinced Christians must not give ground on our belief in the first 11 chapters of Genesis. They represent the opening revelation from God to man, and the beginning determines the end. If God is not our Creator, then it is unlikely that He will care enough to bring us to a glorious end as Scripture records.
Third, belief in the virgin birth is another fundamental tenet of faith. If Jesus is not virgin born, He is not the only begotten Son of God. If He is not the Son of God, He cannot be the sinless sacrifice for our sins.
Lastly, while God has spoken through His creation and left a witness in every heart of His nature and being (Rom. 1), He has spoken directly to us through Jesus and the Word of God. When one rejects the Scripture, it is difficult to place faith in its Author. An inerrant and infallible Bible is a foundational truth for faith.
I left my friend with one challenge and one truth. I challenged him to read the Bible through, at least the New Testament, before he rejects it as fable. The living Word has a way of transforming hearts. In addition, I told him he needs to consider the difference in our faith. If he is right, I lose nothing. If I am right, he loses everything.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.