In San Diego, California, our church established a regular schedule for evangelism at Balboa Park. One of the unique things about Balboa Park was that, on Saturdays, it served as the place where a multitude of different belief systems would interact.
Every single Saturday, there were Muslims, Atheists, Hindus, Messianic Jews, Orthodox and Reformed Jews, spiritualists, and a couple Christian groups (one of which was ours). This made for a very interesting, yet fruitful, time at the park during outreach.
All of these groups, aside from the Christians, had one thing in common. They were products of unbelief. They all rejected belief in the one true, Triune, God of the Scriptures.
The rationale generally found there, among all those who reject the Christian God, is that they didn’t have evidence for Christianity. In other words, they didn’t think the Christian God was made manifest in nature. Of course, all of them had created their own god and claimed that nature best represented the god which they believed in.
For atheists, they were their own gods; for Hindus, god is the world and the world is god, this is pantheism; and for Muslims, Allah is god. Each of these groups reject the Christian system of thought on the basis of one, central, assumption: there is no reason to believe in such a God.
But, this is an assumption taken for granted.
They assume, for instance, that the world and everything in it has been made by alternate means, other than the Christian God. Moreover, they assume evidence, if there’s any to be had whatsoever, is not characteristically Christian in nature. It is their presupposition that the Christian God did not create the world.
That presupposition will line, or tint, the rest of their thinking.
Paul tells us in Romans that God, this God, is known by virtue of all that is created (Rom 1:18-21). He does not say that God may be discovered by way of some deductive process; rather, God is presently known by all people through what has been made. He also tells us that, because of sin, unbelievers will suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
The rationale for unbelief is, therefore, nonsensical. This is the case for three reasons:
- Unbelief assumes unproven, or unargued, philosophy: We could call this an unargued philosophical bias. This is when someone takes for granted a fact which is necessary to their whole argument, but doesn’t bother to show that fact to be true. For example, I may argue that, “Airplanes are safer to travel in than cars,” but I assumed the existence of airplanes to make that argument (probably because my audience assumes their existence as well… hopefully).So, with an atheist, this looks like this: “There is not enough evidence for your God.” This truth claim makes several unargued assumptions which any defendant of Christianity needs to point out. First, the atheist assumes something such as truth exists. Truth must exist for any sort of evidence to be known. If there is evidence at all, it must be true that evidence exists and that it can be used to come to rational conclusions.Second, the atheist assumes a definition of evidence.However, it’s not the case that the Christian and the atheist will agree on a definition of evidence. In other words, what constitutes evidence for the atheist is going to be different from what constitutes evidence for the Christian. The proponents of any sort of unbelief, therefore, must either justify these assumptions, or remain nonsensical and irrational.
- Unbelief imposes unjustified artificial standards upon the Christian God: Similar to the claim that there is not enough evidence, some unbelievers will argue something like, “If your God existed, X would be the case.” Usually, X is the problem of evil or the general appearance of the world.It is thought that, if the Christian God existed there would be no suffering.
But, this assumes something about our God that’s not true, and it assumes ability to know, exhaustively, His infinite mind.More often than not, these expectations are had on the basis of a misunderstanding of who God is. I once had an atheist say to me that God could not exist because if He did, their child would not have passed away.Not bypassing the sensitivity of this issue, one must be careful to point out that the Christian God’s ultimate purpose is not to sustain life as we know it on this planet, but to accomplish His plan of redemption which will end in a glorious eschatological return of His Son to earth.It must also be noted that God ordains the means through which His will comes to pass, and that we cannot presume that death is pointless. There is a purpose, or teleology, behind everything which comes to pass on this planet. They do not have to agree with us, but then again, we are simply trying to gently correct their understanding of who our God says He is.I’ve heard attacks on our God which were a direct result of misunderstanding the Trinity. Another atheist, during a formal debate, basically made the argument that the Trinity was incoherent because it’s illogical to say that God is both three and one. But, the elaboration upon the Doctrine of the Trinity is not that simple.Christians confess that the three Persons of the Trinity equally share in the one divine essence. Thus, we can join with St. Patrick in “believing in threeness, confessing the oneness, of Creation’s Creator.”
- Finally, unbelief assumes an ethical standard: One of the most common objections, as noted above, is the problem of suffering. The problem of suffering is a problem precisely because there must be some sort of standard that makes suffering what it is. If there is suffering, there is non-suffering, and so on and so forth. This is important to point out to the unbeliever because they are assuming a particular standard of what ought to be the case and what ought not be the case.However, when the unbelieving worldview is critiqued, it can be shown that there is no objective standard for what constitutes suffering. It’s arbitrary to call something suffering when there is no objective, independent, standard next to which something can be compared to.Moreover, many atheists will assert a sort of moral relativism, and then in the same breath tenaciously defend their right to propagate their views in a public place, or the value of their own life.
Unbelief is not something which ought to be taken as a hardy opponent of Christianity, deserving room just in case it might be correct. Unbelief is incorrect because unbelief, no unbelief, can remain internally consistent with itself like Christianity does. A rational person, you’d think, would accept the Christian position. But, this is not the case.
Scripture doesn’t only tell us that our God is the only true God, nor does it only show us that it virtually proves itself to be true (cf. the self-authentication of Scripture), it also tells us that people, though professing to be wise became fools (Rom 1:22).
Therefore, we ought to trust in the saving power of the gospel, and our sovereign God who saves the utmost of sinners through that holy Word. Not relying on ourselves, we ought to herald the gospel without exception to those who currently reject Christ in hopes God will save them.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” —Romans 1:16