Ask Your Preacher
I am a Christian, and I have an old friend who is an atheist. My friend has been married for seventeen years and last summer came close to a divorce after his wife discovered that he was having an affair. They have since reconciled but have sought no counseling. I have even suggested they begin this new chapter in their lives by joining a church. This suggestion was laughed off. He and his wife along with my wife and me are going on vacation together in three weeks. We live 900 miles apart from one another.
Now that you have the background, here's the question. Yesterday, he asked me to renew his wife's and his vows on the beach! My knee-jerk response was, "No, I can't do that. You need a preacher!" He responded by saying that he doesn't need a preacher, and he just needs someone to do the vows, and who better than his old best friend? Something is nagging at me. First of all, I don't think they have taken the right steps to ensure a solid marriage going forward, but there seems to be more bothering me. Is there something wrong with a Christian renewing the vows of a couple who are not Christians? Is there something wrong with someone other than a preacher renewing a married couple’s vows? Thank you.
An Old Friend
Dear An Old Friend,
No, there isn't anything wrong with you helping them renew their vows – after all, they aren't officially getting married; they did that seventeen years ago. This is just a couple trying to reconcile and re-embrace a healthy marriage. God says that marriage is to be held in honor by all (Heb 13:4). It isn't a sin for you to help any married couple try and renew a sense of honor in their marriage.
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 was talking to an atheist the other day, and a question that we both share is the defining question of him being an atheist. And it is: God sent Jesus to Earth to die for our sins; well, since the universe is so big, and there is most likely some other place in the universe with life, then did God send another savior to there? Or are we the only planet out of the nearly infinite universe with life? I'm currently going through a point in my faith where I'm questioning a lot, and I just wanted to know why are we here.
Dear Intelligent Lifeform,
The Scriptures don’t say anything directly about aliens (which is really what we are talking about when we discuss other sentient beings in this universe), but they do say several things that make sentient life on other planets highly unlikely.
- God made mankind in His image (Gen 1:26). That is where we get our free will, reason, emotion, conscience, etc. The whole point of alien life is that there is a species of life among the stars that is equal to mankind. God says that man has no equal.
- In the creation story found in Genesis chapter one, Earth seems to be the central focus of the story. The stars, heavenly bodies, etc. are given only a brisk overview. The implication is that Earth is the center of all organic life; it is the central purpose of the creation. It would be odd for God to leave out the part where He made other life-sustaining planets with other sentient beings.
- Jesus came to die for mankind (1 Cor 15:3) and the people of this world (Jhn 3:16). If there were aliens that had intelligence, souls, and freewill like humanity, wouldn’t God care equally for their souls? If aliens do exist… it seems that they have been left out of the blessing of forgiveness in Christ.
None of these reasons explicitly deny the existence of alien life; they just make the chances very, very improbable. Perhaps someday we will find some plants, fungus, or bacteria on another planet, but I doubt we will ever find E.T. Which also answers the second part of your question. We are here because God made us in His image and has given us the free will to choose our own destiny. His desire is that we, the only sentient creatures created, will choose eternity with Him in heaven (2 Pet 3:9). If you would like further information on how to choose God, we recommend reading “What Must I Do To Be Saved?”.
(This post is a follow-up to “From Nothing To Eternity”)
I just received your answer. However, it has only spawned more questions.
You say that the Bible says the earth is round, and the Bible has written of this. But what about all the verses of the Bible that suggest that the earth is flat? “Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea” (Job 11:9)… just to name one (other than all the verses that talk about the ends of the earth). And how Matthew talks about how the devil took Jesus to the top of a mountain to view all the kingdoms of the earth? You can't do this within a sphere.
About the contradictions, I know of one that I've personally noticed while reading the Bible during my confirmation. (Exodus 33:11) “And the Lord spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend.” Compare that to Exodus 33:20: “Thou canst not see My face, for there shall no man see Me and live”. This is only nine verses later!
About the Bible being widely distributed, that's not a big deal to some. The Iliad was written more than 500 years prior to the Bible, and it's unchanged.
I was raised in a religious family, and I have a lot of problems with Christianity. I have never been able to get straight answers on most topics. I even read Lee Strobel’s book... I thought it was garbage and biased. I don't know if I'll ever believe again but would really like answers because if I'm wrong, well, I need to know if I am.
Dear Thoughtful Again,
We’ll handle your questions one at a time.
- None of the verses you mentioned state that the earth is flat. Job 11:9 simply compares the expanse and width of the earth to the depths of God’s wisdom (Job 11:7)… a figurative comparison, not a literal one. Furthermore, all the verses that discuss “the ends of the earth” are exactly the same as when we use that terminology today. People will often say things like, “I would go to the ends of the earth to find my true love”… that doesn’t imply the earth is flat – it is simply a common turn of phrase that is used in multiple languages. Lastly, when the devil showed Jesus the kingdoms of the earth from the top of a mountain, you failed to read the rest of the passage. Lk 4:5 says that the devil showed him all the kingdoms of earth in a moment of time – this was obviously a miraculous occurrence, not a topographical issue.
- Ex. 33:11 is another case of taking a phrase out of context. Moses spoke to God “face to face” only in the sense that he talked to God “as a man talks to his friend”. You have to remember to take context into account with everything that you read. It is a very common problem for people to “cherry pick” verses out of their context and miss what a verse is really saying.
- The Iliad is not nearly as widely distributed as the Bible. The less than seven hundred ancient manuscripts that exist of The Iliad are only in agreement 67% of the time. On the other hand, there are over 17,000 ancient manuscripts of the Bible… they are in 99% agreement. A pretty huge difference in quality.
- As far as your belief that Strobel’s book is biased… how do you account for the fact that he was an atheist before he began writing it? Also, he isn’t the only author to write on this subject. We would be happy to recommend dozens of books on this topic if you are interested.
We are so thankful that you are willing to honestly examine the evidence. You may have never received straight answers in the past, but as you can see… we are happy to offer them here. This is the most important subject you will ever look into.
I am an atheist who is actively searching for belief in God. Is this something that can be achieved? Can somebody with an open mind shift beliefs?
Your question is one of the fundamental questions of life: “Does God Exist?” It is important that everyone asks this question at some point in their life. It is a basic question that is worthy of an honest answer. We here at AYP believe that anyone with an honest heart can examine the evidence and change. We believe in God because of the evidence.
We will try to give you some key points that there is a Creator, but we will also point you in the direction of some resources that may help you in your quest for answers. So here we go:
- Look at a watch and ask yourself the question, “Is this designed?” Of course, a watch is designed – just like a house, a car, a camera, and other modern technological marvels. You know they are designed because they are complex, they have purpose, and they are organized in a meaningful way. Now look at your eye, your hand, even a single follicle of hair. Are they designed? They are infinitely more complex than a watch. They have very distinct purposes, and they are all organized in a meaningful way. You were designed by God; you have a Designer. If you believe in watchmakers, you can believe in God.
- The most basic laws of science tell us that nothing ever comes from nothing (1st Law of Thermodynamics). Einstein made it clear that nothing can be destroyed; energy can turn into matter and matter into energy, but everything that is here has always been here. That begs the question, “Where did it all come from?” Scientists all agree that everything we see had to come from somewhere, but the only logical answer to that question is ‘God’. God, a supernatural deity not bound by the laws of physics, created all that we see and enjoy in this universe.
- God’s Word is also proof that God is. The Bible is a book that only God could write. It has prophecies that are fulfilled hundreds of years after they are spoken. It has remained unchanged by tradition or persecution for thousands of years. It makes statements about how our world works hundreds of years before scientists realized the concepts for themselves. The Bible is a book composed by over forty different writers over thousands of years, and yet it has no contradictions within it. The Bible could not have been written by anyone but Deity.
These are just three reasons to believe in God; there are many more that space prevents us from mentioning. We also recommend you go back and read through the posts in our EVIDENCES category. You will see that you aren’t the only one who has questions about God, and you will also see that there are answers to every question. We also recommend reading I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Geisler and Turek and Has God Spoken? by A.O. Schnabel. Both books are well worth the read.