As I concluded my case for the historical Jesus, audience member “D” stood immediately and identified himself as an atheist. Forty-four heads pivoted in unison to the back of the room, eager to hear a skeptic’s counter-argument.
This all took place in the main cafeteria at Carroll University (Milwaukee area), spring semester, planned beautifully by my colleague April Bricco.
D didn’t actually say much about Jesus, but instead fired off five quick objections to Christianity: science, the Crusades, wishful thinking, evolution, and the canceling effect of other religions.*
I was familiar with the technique. Atheists often bundle together assorted objections to create a rhetorical sandstorm designed to overwhelm opponents in the moment, or at least convince everyone else in the room of the silliness of Christianity.
I responded to D by pointing out that he’d just thrown a handful of sand in the air — and which grain of sand did he want me to address?
We went back and forth for fifteen minutes, during which I was able to share the gospel message with . . . well, the forty-four onlookers, many of whom were undecided about which way to believe.
At the end of the evening D came forward to shake my hand, the forty-four surprised, perhaps, that a Christian evangelist and an atheist would show a measure of mutual respect in a public forum.
* * *
A friendly reminder that June 30 is the end of the fiscal year, here at InterVarsity. If you’d like to give a gift (or extra gift) to my work, you can do so here.
Thanks so much!
Rick & Sharon Mattson
* The canceling effect of other religions is the idea that there’s no way to distinguish the truth claims of one religion over another, so we can’t be sure of any religion. Not a good argument, in my opinion, but that’s what it means.