Conversation with a skeptic

I had lunch with a skeptic yesterday.  It was a great conversation and we both enjoyed it.  So I wrote down all I could remember (his objections and my answers):

  1. There are a ton of hypocrites in the Church – more inside the Church than on the outside (Tim/Tammy Fay, Benny Hin, Jerry Falwell, etc…)
    1. Answers I gave
      1. Not everyone who professes to be a Christian is a Christian (Jesus said by their fruits you will know them)
      2. Jesus reserved his most condemning rebukes for hypocrites – I cited some of the stuff out of Matthew 23 and the “Pharisees with flowing robes” stuff.
      3. No one is perfect – we are all sinners and Christians are in the process of being transformed by God.  However if a person stubbornly persists in sin and is unrepentant about it, that is probably a good sign they are not a Christian.  However, I am not the judge of people, only God knows the heart of each individual.
  2. God becoming man (how could an Infinite God send a man to earth?)
    1. Answers I gave
      1. If you wanted to get to know an ‘ant’, how would you do it?  Could you do it in your present form?  No, you’d have to become an ant to really know ants.  Jesus became a man to be like one of us (Heb 4:15-16), show us the way, seek and save us since we were lost (Luke 19:10).  We discussed this analogy quite a while – he seemed to like it (he said “it works for me”).
  3. Christianity is the “new kid on the block” in terms of religions, why would I listen to it (Hinduism has been around for thousands more years)?
    1. Answers I gave
      1. Well actually, it is not the new kid on the block.  Islam started around 600AD and Mormonism started around 1820AD.
      2. (I also wanted to give an additional answer, but we changed subjects – Islam and Hinduism do not teach the correct view of Jesus, so I would have a problem with them for that reason)
  4. I as a father couldn’t hurt my child, how could God send us to Hell?  He said that God is supposed to be our Father, and we are supposedly created in His image, so how could He do that (not sure I remember the exact wording):
    1. Answers I gave
      1. God will respect the right of a person to reject Him.  If a person wants nothing to do with Him during their life on earth, He will not drag that person into heaven for all eternity to worship Him and live with Him.  So the person that rejects God for His whole life will receive his wish and be separated from Him in a place called hell.
      2. He countered that a good parent would not do that.  To that, I responded with an example of a run away.  For example [name with-held] (a guy we both know at our work) – his daughter essentially ran away to Mexico with his ex-wife.  She is 16, so [name with-held] could legally take action to bring her back.  But she would end up resenting him and ultimately, she would probably just run away again.  [name with-held] knows what is best for her (to be in America with him).  He knows that she will have a hard life in Mexico and that her education will not be as good.  Yet, he is not going to try and force her to come back.  In the same way, our heavenly Father knows what’s best for us, but we think we know more than him.  At a certain point, He will no longer try to pull us back to Him.  He won’t override our free will.
      3. I also explained how the message of the cross is central to Christianity.  The cross is where God’s Justice and Love intersect.  God is a just Judge, so He can’t let sin go unpunished, but He loves us so much that He doesn’t want to punish us.  So He sent His Son to earth to live the perfect life and then to be our substitute and pay the penalty for our sins. Here is where I gave the gospel presentation and told him how sinful humans can be forgiven for their sins and receive the free gift of eternal life if they repent and place their trust in Jesus.
  5. Why do I need a book to tell me what’s right and wrong?
    1. Answers I gave
      1. You don’t – God has written the law on every man’s heart.  Man was created in God’s image having the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 1:26-27; Rom 2:14-15).
  6. The idea of “3rd party forgiveness” (I think that is how he phrased it) is abhorrent/disgusting/revolting to him.  For example, if someone rapes his daughter, then apologizes to God and receives forgiveness, that is not “just” – he sinned against me, so asking and receiving forgiveness from God is just wrong.  I think he also mentioned about last minute conversions of people who have been sinning their whole life and also he talked about people who view forgiveness as kind of a get out of jail free card where they know God will forgive them, so they just sin anyway.
    1. Answers I gave
      1. God is the One who instituted the law (e.g. 10 commandments) and He is our creator, so ALL sin is ultimately against Him.  The person needs to ask for both horizontal (to the person they harmed) and vertical (to God) forgiveness
      2. Also, God knows the person’s heart and whether they truly have repented.  I asked him if he’d ever heard of repentance or knew what it was.  He replied yes and that there’s much too little of it.  I explained the biblical view of repentance to him.
  7. Why are Christians so unforgiving?
    1. Answers I gave
      1. I quoted this Scripture to him:  Jesus said “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Mat 6:14-15).  So, this is one of the core attributes of a true Christian that they are supposed to be very forgiving (not perfectly, but increasingly)
      2. I also told him about the parable of the unforgiving servant and how that relates to Christians who’ve had all their sins forgiven and yet won’t forgive someone when they sin against them.  That this is a core characteristic of Christianity.
  8. The Bible was written by uneducated, primitive people who were afraid of nature (lightning, death, etc.) and needed an explanation and comfort
    1. Answers I gave
      1. Even if the message of the Bible (including forgiveness and life after death) is comforting, one should not believe it unless it is true – unless you have good reasons for believing it.
  9. He had some history in the Church (youth group) – Mom was southern Baptist (previously J.W.).  He had good friends at church, but started to see how people acted compared to what they professed with their lips and came to the conclusion that it was not true.  He also knew the Pastor’s kids and they were very rebellious and it struck him that they were that close to someone who’s supposed to be a real Christian, yet, they were putting on an act to make the parents believe they were good and behind their backs, they were living a life that did not match up with their profession.  He also noticed that when he went to Church where people were supposed to be focused on God, they were more concerned about gossiping (who was wearing what, who did what, etc.).
    1. Answers I gave

i.      To all of this (including the “Christian leaders” who are hypocrites), I responded that it grieved me as well.  I think people that profess to be Christians, yet act like non-believers do much harm to Christianity and to people with a worldview like you, who look at those people and don’t know how it (Christianity) could be true.

ii.      Specifically regarding the “Christian leaders” who are hypocrites, I mentioned that there are Christian leaders who are good role models and are really striving to practice what they preach and live lives of integrity.  Unfortunately, they aren’t “news worthy”, so you don’t hear about them as much, if at all.

  1. He had a problem with God’s omniscience vs. man’s free will – doesn’t that mean that our actions are already determined if God knows in advance what we’re going to do and He can’t be wrong?
    1. Answers I gave
      1. I talked about how we are “stuck in time” and God is eternal (outside of time), so He can see it all at once, whereas we cannot and it is very hard for us to fathom being able to know the end from the beginning, but that doesn’t mean it is not possible.  God can have foreknowledge of events without overriding our free will.
      2. I also talked about the concept of the “middle knowledge” of God.  He knows not only the actual future as it will play out, but all possible futures (e.g. if person X living in the jungle would’ve believed if he had heard the gospel, but person Y would NOT have believed).

He also said a crucial moment for him was when he envisioned 2 soldiers in opposing fox holes in a war both praying to God for an opposite result and he realized it couldn’t be true.

I also gave my testimony how for 37 years of my life I acted like God didn’t exist and then at an Easter Sunday service my eyes were opened.  I went through a lot more than that.

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