Conversation with a Skeptic (Part 2)

This past Friday, I went out to lunch with this associate of mine who is a skeptic (here is the post where I talk about our first conversation: https://1peter41216.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/conversation-with-a-skeptic/).  This was as a result of him talking with me one day while we were in line at the cafeteria.  He was bringing up all these objections about Christianity (in a rapid fire fashion) and I said that this is probably not a good place or time for us to have this conversation.  I suggested we go out to lunch some time.  So he sent me a calendar invitation and after one cancellation, we were finally able to do it this past Friday.  Initially, he said he was real busy and maybe we should just go downstairs to the cafeteria, but I said that we won’t be able to talk there, let’s go out – we can make it at a “semi” fast food place.  So I suggested Espo’s, this “hole in the wall” Mexican restaurant where you walk up to the counter to order your food.

On the way over there, we were talking about work and then started to talk about some more personal stuff (hobbies and family).  He was relaying how his life has totally changed since he got married and had kids.  He has no time anymore for himself.  At this time, I felt it was a good time to get into spiritual topics.  I started off by saying (in reference to the comment about putting family above his own interests) that a Christian gives their life to Christ.  That started the spiritual part of our conversation.  What follows is what I can remember of the conversion.  The topics are not necessarily in the exact order we covered them in and the wording may not be exact, but this represents the general flow of the topics we talked about.

Skeptic: He has a big problem with Hypocrites in the Church; he said that I’m only one of about a handful of Christians he’s ever met that seems to be authentic.

Me: I thanked him and said that hypocrites grieved me as well.

Skeptic: He was talking about tragedy in the world and people dying.

Me: I replied that in the Christian worldview, people don’t die; they just change locations (either heaven or hell).

Me: I asked him why he has rejected Christ.

Skeptic:

  1. He said “I haven’t really rejected Christ, I just lack faith.”
  2. He also said that “Christianity is the new kid on the block.”  We’ve had religions for thousands of years before it.  What should make me think that this new kid on the block is the right religion?

Me: I replied that just because it came along later doesn’t mean it is false.  You have to evaluate the claims of Christ and come to your own conclusion.

Skeptic: He said that he wished Christianity was true.

Me: So, I asked him, “If you found out that Christianity was true, would you become a Christian?” (the answer should’ve been an immediate yes)

Skeptic: He hemmed and hawed, never really gave an answer.  But then, oddly enough, he started talking about the rapture of all things… (he has some Church background as a youth)  He was fired up about the rapture, he said it would be really cool.

Me: I suggested you should believe before the rapture happens – don’t wait until it happens!

Skeptic: He said he would like to be able to take retribution against all the bad things that are happening in the world – he wished God would (can’t remember the exact words) authorize/empower/allow him to take revenge.

Me: I told him that no Christian is allowed to take revenge – God says “’Vengeance is mine’ says the LORD.  ‘I will repay’”

Me: Forgiveness – we talked about this after the talk about vengeance. I brought up the example of the Amish in Ohio when someone came into their community and killed a bunch of people and how they just forgave them.  I brought up Luke 6:28 where Jesus says – Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Skeptic: He said “could you really forgive someone who did that (murder, rape) to your own family”?

Me: I acknowledged that it would be very hard if it was just me, but Christians have Christ living in them and through them by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is only by the power of Christ that I could forgive.  Also, it is not like you’re forgiving someone to their face who doesn’t think they’ve done anything wrong.  You forgive them completely and unconditionally in your heart and in prayer before God, but you don’t communicate that forgiveness to them face to face until they acknowledge what they’ve done as being wrong (until they repent).  Otherwise your act of forgiveness would be taken as an insult by someone who is proclaiming their goodness and innocence. I also brought up where Jesus was hanging on the cross and the Roman soldiers were below Him and He said “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”.  If He would’ve just said to the Roman soldiers “Hey you guys, I forgive you for nailing Me to this cross”, they would’ve just said, hey I was just doing my job bro!  But Jesus said this forgiveness out loud so that others could hear it but not directly to the perpetrators.  And I also relayed the story about the thieves hanging on the cross beside Him and how one was cursing and insulting and the other acknowledged that Jesus had not done anything wrong and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom and how Jesus responded “Today, you will be with Me in paradise”.

Skeptic: He brought up bad design (he said “Intelligent Design” is a joke).  He gave all these examples of things gone wrong in our world (e.g. cancer) and various examples of “bad design”.

Me: I said that “bad design” is not “no design”.  And you can’t really know if you have a bad or good design unless you know the intent, requirements and constraints of the designer.  If I wrote some software, you might look at the code and say that is rotten.  But maybe it does exactly what I designed it to do for reasons that you are not aware of.

Skeptic: He asked me what I thought about homosexuality

Me: I stated that I thought that is no worse than all of the other sins.  All of humanity are sinners in need of a Savior.  I admitted that I’d lied and lusted too.  I’m as guilty before God as the homosexual.  We’re all in the same boat – we’re lost without Christ.

Skeptic: Talked about some Native American tribe that went underground during some disaster and talked to the “ant people”.  I think he was trying to draw some kind of parallel between this and the New Testament authors.

Me: I think it was at this point that I communicated to him that the New Testament consists of 27 books written by 9 authors over a period of somewhere between 30 – 60 years (within the lifetimes of those who’d witnessed these events).  These were all people who either had direct experience with Jesus or interviewed those who did.  All but 1 of them went to their deaths proclaiming what they’d seen and heard.  All they would have to do is recant and save their lives but they didn’t.  How can 9 guys keep a conspiracy/secret under this kind of pressure for that long?  The authors of the New Testament did not gain power, money or sex from writing what they wrote.  Instead they were chased around and persecuted and eventually killed for what they were proclaiming.  Why would anyone knowingly die for a lie?  I brought up about suicide bombers who die, but they don’t know for sure that what they’re dying for is true.  These people lived, walked and ate with Jesus for 3 years while He was on earth.  They certainly knew whether it was true or not.  I even relayed how Paul, when he was speaking before Festus (a ruler) who’d accused him of basically being crazy, said that he was not “mad” but what he was saying was reasonable and true and that these things had not been done “in a corner” and it couldn’t have escaped Festus’ notice.  I also shared with him about how over 500 people had seen Jesus after He’d risen.  I shared Acts 1:3 “After His suffering, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive.  He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”

Me: I talked about how we all have the same evidence (beginning of the universe, fossils, archeology, etc.).

Skeptic: He had a problem with God’s sovereignty and how Christians use that concept in whatever way suits them.  For example, if someone is trying to get pregnant and they finally have a baby, they claim that God gave them the baby, but if something bad happens, they are not likely to claim that as something God did to them.  He also talked about the girls that were held by that guy and raped for 10 years.

Me:

  1. I stated that sin entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden and after that everything doesn’t work the way it should, there is a curse on the creation.
  2. I also talked about a biblical example where things looked really bad, but God turned it around for good.  I relayed the story of Joseph, which culminated in Genesis 50:20, where Joseph said “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done; the saving of many lives”.
  3. I re-iterated the point that God can take sinful actions and use them to fulfill His purposes.  He’s like the master chess player, whatever move you make, He is able to make the necessary counter moves to achieve “checkmate”.

Skeptic: He had a problem with God having Sovereignty and humans really being free.

Me: I gave him an example of being on a large ocean liner going from New York to London.  On that ocean liner, you’re free to go wherever you want and do whatever you want.  You have freedom within the ocean liner.  But you can’t change the fact that the ship is headed to London.  You can’t get off the ship and you can’t change its direction.  In the same way, we were all born into a certain circumstance, with our particular parents in our particular location in the world and with our genetic code and physical characteristics.  I will never be an Olympic athlete.  Some things are just impossible for me based on the hand I’ve been dealt.  That doesn’t mean I’m not free.  I’m able to make free choices every day.  The fact that God knows what I’m going to do before I do it does not mean I’m not free.

Me: I told him that I was really happy that we could have this conversation and be calm and not hostile or argumentative.  He said that the problem was that most Christians are pushy and trying to persuade you of their view and convert you.  He acknowledged that I probably would be happy if he agreed with my view as well.  I then asked him why he thought I’d be happy.  He replied that he assumed that I thought it would be “better for him” and make is life more “fulfilling”.  I replied, that while I think that is true, that is not why I would want him to agree.  But rather, it is because I believe this worldview to be true beyond a reasonable doubt.  I can’t prove that God exists or that Jesus is who He says He is any more than he can disprove those things.  But I can provide a lot of evidence that supports those assertions.

Overall, it was a really great conversation.  We ended up and shook hands and both said that we should do this again sometime.  I truly hope that we will.  I hope that I’ve put a pebble in his shoe…  And I pray for this person that God would use what I shared with him to consider the claims of Christ and to put his trust in Him.

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