Ask Your Preacher
I work with a co-worker who claims to be an atheist. There are a myriad of apologetic books that speak to these types of people and their claims. However, I would like to seek your insights on how to best reason with this person. In the process of talking with him, he has actually asked me to share Scriptures of encouragement that he could share with his girlfriend. I have bought him his first Bible, Bible Dictionary, and a pamphlet on how to study the Bible, which he was moved by and gladly received. I also offered to study with him, but he has not yet accepted my offer. Still, he needs to be convinced that God is real and that we did not get here by accident. Is there a simple format or practical approach I can use?
Ironically, one of the best places to start with an atheist is to discuss their faith. The relationship you mentioned sounds like it is a “talk when we can” sort of situation, and so it can be hard to cover anything in a systematic, step-by-step way. Lord willing, you will eventually be able to have a sit-down class with this individual, but until then, you are really just trying to get him thinking about how important this issue is.
In the past, we have talked with our atheist friends about their faith, and it can really jar their eyes open. Most atheists believe they don’t have faith, but this simply isn’t true. An atheist cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no God any more than you or I can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is. At some point, both the atheist and the theist have faith. Faith is an inevitable element of life. Anytime you trust something you can’t see, it is an act of faith (Heb 11:1). When we take an aspirin, we have faith that it isn’t laced with arsenic. When we drive, we have faith that the traffic light is telling the other lanes to stop when it tells us to go. We visit restaurants because we have faith in the recommendation our friend gave us, and we buy houses based on our faith in the home inspector’s report. Everyone lives by faith – this is an important aspect of life. If your atheist friend had no faith, he couldn’t function in life.
This is a great place to start because when an atheist realizes that they already live by faith, you can begin to discuss the fact that faith is based off of evidence. We believe in God because we have been given enough evidence that we can reasonably believe in His existence. Read “Is God Real?” for a basic list of evidences. When an atheist begins to view their life as a life of faith, it changes the discussion from “science vs. religion” to “which faith do I choose?”. In our humble opinion, this is a good, practical place to start.
I'm in a little bit of a dilemma. I have a couple of friends who I love to death, but lately, I have been having second thoughts about them. They're both seventeen years old and are already drinking quite a bit. One of them is a pretty heavy smoker, and both of them smoke weed and get high when they aren't hanging out with me. The heavy smoker also has sex a lot with a guy who doesn't even want a relationship with her. Neither of them go to church, nor do they have the slightest interest in going, and whenever I try to talk about it, they start cussing about church. When they're around me, they don't drink, don't smoke, try hard not to swear, and respect that I'm not into all of that stuff. Like I said already, I love them to death. They're two of my best friends and have been since middle school. I was hanging out with them the other day and kind of started thinking they weren't the best people to be hanging out with. I am a member of the church of Christ, and I was wondering if you could help me out with what I should do. Thanks.
Keeping Questionable Company
Dear Keeping Questionable Company,
When friendships begin to fall apart, it is a very painful thing, and that is why you are struggling right now. Your life has taken a different course than theirs. Your life is built on a different foundation, and those differences become more prominent the older you get. You are at a crossroads and need to make a decision. Here are some things to consider:
- You may have heard the verse – “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor 15:33). Right now, your friends are showing a certain level of respect for your spiritual and moral values, but that is changing. As you said, they mock church and God and try not to swear (which means they do swear some of the time). The more they continue to live ungodly lifestyles, the more that behavior will seep in. If you continue to spend time with them, that behavior will influence you no matter how strong you are. Solomon was the wisest man on the planet, and bad company turned him into an idolater (1 Kgs 11:4). If it can happen to Solomon, it can happen to any of us.
- You have tried to help them, but they aren’t interested. It is a good thing for christians to befriend unbelievers and try to make a difference in their lives… Jesus did this (Matt 9:10). However, when someone shows no interest in spiritual things, it is time to shake the dust off your feet – no matter how hard that may be. Jesus said it best when He warned, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before the swine lest they trample them under their feet and turn and rend you.” (Matt 7:6).
- God tells us to obey our consciences… and your conscience is telling you something right now (Acts 24:16). Your conscience is a gift from God. Your conscience makes you feel bad when you are doing something you believe is wrong. God tells us to always have a clear conscience (2 Tim 1:3). Listen to your conscience; it is right on the money with this issue.
These verses don’t make it easy for you to make an exit from these friendships, but hopefully, that gives you some comfort that you will be doing the right thing. What a blessing that the church has people like you that love the Lord even when it means making difficult decisions.
I know a person dealing with depression and bisexuality. I need help on what to tell them on their path to the right way.
An Encouraging Friend
Dear An Encouraging Friend,
We won’t pretend to be able to give you an entire lesson in counseling in a single post. AskYourPreacher is simply not a good forum for that. However, we can give you a few Bible verses that might be of comfort to your friend.
- 1 Cor 6:9-11 points out that many christians have had the same struggles and problems… and they successfully conquered them.
- Mk 10:27 says that all things are possible with God.
- Some of the greatest people of the Bible have dealt with great sorrow and depression – read our post “I’ve Got The Joy, Joy, Joy” for examples.
- A faithful congregation can make a huge difference in someone’s life because each member helps to strengthen the other members (Eph 4:16). Encourage your friend to start attending a faithful church – we can help you find one for them (e-mail us at email@example.com).
I have a friend who unexpectedly passed away a few weeks ago. He collapsed, went into a seizure, had a heart attack, and finally entered a coma -- all within minutes. This was all due to a brainstem leak which was inoperable. He had no brain or body organ activity. He was taken off life support after four days.
He was not a christian as far as I know. He was involved in sin (living with his girlfriend who is currently pregnant, drinking, cussing, etc., and his girlfriend is married to another man… although I'm not sure if he knew this as this was a new relationship for him, and it's all come out since his passing) when he passed away.
My question is: do you think he had a chance to make it to heaven?
We on the outside look at collapsing as happening within a second or two; although, people that talk about death experiences, talk about "their life flashing before their eyes." Do you think, by chance, in the person’s mind as they are dying everything becomes slow motion? Although, we looking from the outside look at it as a second or two? That God allows their mind enough time to repent when we don't see that time? What about being in a coma? Could that be their moment? As far as I know, doctors don't really know what's going on inside you while in a coma.
I hope this makes sense. I am broken because, as a christian, I know what the Bible says about going to heaven, but I also know God doesn't want anyone to perish, and He is a God full of grace and many chances. I don't believe the Bible says anything about this subject (or does it?), but what are your thoughts? Thank you so much.
Clinging To Hope
Dear Clinging To Hope,
There is absolutely no way to tell what happens in someone’s mind in the last moments near death. What we can tell you is that God doesn’t make mistakes. We can find comfort that God doesn’t desire anyone to perish, but for all of us to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9). Anyone that goes to hell will go there because they chose to be there in spite of God reaching out to them throughout life. No one accidentally ends up in hell, and no one accidentally ends up in heaven. Our lives dictate our eternal future. We can’t tell you the eternal future of your friend – Christ is the judge of the living and the dead (2 Tim 4:1). We can tell you that we are so very sorry for your loss and that a sudden death is extremely painful. Our prayers are with you in this time of grief. We can also tell you that the only way to know for sure that we are going to heaven is to do what God says it takes to get there. Read our article “What Must I Do To Be Saved?” for yourself, and then decide for yourself where you feel your friend stands in relation to the Bible’s teachings. Ultimately, God doesn’t make mistakes – if your friend is meant to be in heaven, he will be.
Hi. My grandmother does hoodoo; I know the name after researching the things she owns. Is she going to hell; is hoodoo a sin? The biggest thing is that she is a christian, a very godly woman; she attends church every Sunday and even gives one hundred dollars every month.
Dear Grandma Grief,
Hoodoo is wrong and is a warping of the Scriptures. Hoodoo is a term used for those who use the Bible like a magic spell book and protective talisman. Instead of treating the Bible like an instruction book for life (which is the right attitude – 2 Pet 1:3, Rom 1:16, Rom 10:17), Hoodoo treats the Bible like a lucky rabbit’s foot. If you open to the right Psalm or the read the proper verse at the proper time, you will be given special protection, health, or powers. This is totally opposite of what the Bible teaches. In fact, during the days of Paul, there were exorcists that tried this tactic. A group of Jewish exorcists saw that Paul had power from God, so they tried to talk and act like Paul in order to receive the same powers Paul had… it didn’t work (Acts 19:13-16). The Bible isn’t a tool to gain magical powers; it is a pattern for living (2 Tim 1:13). No matter how much money your grandmother gives and how regularly she attends services, this practice is sinful.