Monday, April 28, 2014

Questions I Would Ask An Atheist Over A Cup Of Coffee Or A Glass Of Wine

As I mentioned in my previous post I've been thinking a lot about the topic of Christian apologetics.  I have been delving into why I believe what I believe and how I can clearly communicate those reasons.  I've also been thinking a lot about my atheist/ agnostic friends.  Beliefs about religion are one of those topics that can quickly become heated and uncomfortable.  Unless we're talking to someone we already know agrees with us we don't typically bring it up.

Yet the internet is chock full of discussions about faith....most of them heated & uncomfortable.  I've seen some videos on youtube along the lines of 'Questions for an atheist' or 'Questions for a Christian'.  And, those videos for the most part ask questions that are designed to challenge the other person's worldview.

And, don't get me wrong.  Challenge can be a good thing.  If I hadn't been challenged on some of my core beliefs by others I never would have gone deeper and reached a point where I felt I truly understood what I believed and could articulate that.

Challenge can also be combative and divisive and fruitless.  It's a fine, hard line that we're called to walk when challenging or questioning others.  And, I've already failed miserably on that front more times than not.

So, this whole concept of asking someone with opposing views questions got me to thinking.  What kind of questions would I ask if I could sit down face to face in a totally non-hostile environment with someone who believed differently than me?  What do I really want to know from the atheist or agnostic?

You see.  I'm fascinated by people.  I'm also an introvert by nature.  But, I love to observe & listen & consider what seems to be what makes people tick.  I love hearing other people's stories.  I love getting beyond what's on the surface and finding out what's deep down.

So, if I had a chance to sit down with an atheist or agnostic...say over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine...what do I really want to know?  And these are the questions I came up with.  I posted this on Facebook hoping that some of my atheist/agnostic acquaintances might answer some of them for me.  And, I'm taking a risk by posting them here too.

Please understand, I don't ask these questions to initiate a debate.  I would just like to better understand.  This is what I posted...
I have a some questions for my friends who would consider themselves atheists or agnostics or who have no religious affiliation. I'm wondering if any of you would be willing to answer them for me. They are an attempt for me to do a bit of research and better understand how you've reached the conclusions about life, faith, religion, etc. that you've reached. I don't intend to use your answers in an effort to debate with you.

As I've been exploring Christian apologetics and have been learning how to better discuss my faith intelligently and my reasons for believing what I believe, I realized that one thing I'm lacking is understanding how people with opposing viewpoints have reached their views. I'm not talking here about scientific evidence/arguments for or against a Creator. I'm talking about the personal journey that each of us make in life and in arriving at our belief systems. Rather than making assumptions, I'd like to understand better.

One of the things that I've been learning is that when we discuss things that are at the very core of who we are and how we approach life, it can become easy to slip into a combative mode. In my attempt to enter in more discussions I've slipped into that pattern myself. It's sometimes hard to discuss something with fervor & passion without sounding argumentative.

So again, let me assure you, these questions are just to help me have a better understanding of what you believe and why.  And, for my Christian friends, I want to stress that I want this to be a safe place for my non-religious friends to answer these questions. I don't want to start any debates, discussions, or arguments.

1. Growing up were you involved in any church/ religious experience?

2. If so, how did this influence or shape the views you hold now?

3. If not, how would you describe the worldview you were raised with?

4. Did you at any point believe in God or the possibility of God?

5. What experience or experiences did you have that most shaped what you believe now?

6. Have you ever had any doubts regarding your current world view?

7. Do you feel you have an understanding of the Bible & what's in it and the Christian view of God? Or do you have a less in depth understanding?

8. Are there other religions that you explored or researched? What were your thoughts on those?

9. If evidence for the existence of God were presented to you, would there still be other roadblocks to being able to accept that evidence?

10. What is your opinion of Christians? If you have a negative view, what is your main complaint?

11. What do you feel is a misconception that Christians have about atheists?

12. What are your thoughts on amiable debates? Are you open to them or are you closed to having discussions with those you disagree with?

13. Can you briefly explain what your current world view/ view of life is?

I know these are a lot of questions, but I appreciate any input you can give me. Thank you so much.  "

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Journey in Christian Apologetics, Part 1

(I include a lot of links in this post to previous posts that I wrote...reading them will give you even more of my story)
My church just wrapped up a 5 day Apologetics Conference.  It featured the speakers Dr. Norman Geisler, Ray Ciervo, and Simon & Nel Brace.  I had been looking forward to it ever since they announced we'd be having the conference again this year.  Our church held it's first ever apologetics conference last year...which I also attended.  Apologetics is a topic which fascinates me and I am always hungry for more teaching on it.  I've been on a journey of sorts for the last three years in coming to understand what it means to be able to defend my faith.  

The first time I heard the term 'apologetics' was when I was in my 20s.  It was also a time that I was not following God.  I had fallen away from the church and most of the standards and values I had held to be true in my early years.  Interestingly enough I still attended a Christian music festival every year during this dark decade.  It was there that I encountered books with the topic of apologetics.  Like many people I misunderstood what that term meant.  I thought it insinuated 'making apologies' for faith.
The term 'apologetics' actually comes from the Greek work, 'apologia'.  And, rather than meaning 'an apology', it is the word for 'making a defense or argument' for a case.  As a matter of fact, the word 'apologia' was used in the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.  In I Peter 3:15 Peter writes, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason (apologia) for the hope that you have."  Christian apologetics is making the case for/ giving the reason for our faith.
Three years ago marks the point at which I started down the road that would lead me to apologetics.  And I recorded some of that journey here in this blog.  
It all began with an encounter I had on Facebook with an atheist friend.  That encounter shocked me & shook me and showed me how desperately unequipped I was to answer arguments against Christianity.  I wrote about that in the blog post, "My Friend the Atheist".  Basically I came to two realizations 1.  Atheism & Skepticism are far more widespread than I realized.  2.  Atheists & Skeptics ask exceedingly hard questions & make very complex arguments against Christianity....all of which I was completely unprepared for

That experience left me so rattled & raised so many questions that I didn't have a response to that I began a serious battle with doubt and sank into a place of despair and desperation.  I was in a spiritual crisis.  I started to write about that in "Dealing with Doubt, Part 1" and "Part 2"  I started searching for answers but had no idea where to begin.  I started doing some reading and some of the books I found that I'd hoped would help me answer my questions either a. left my questions unanswered or 2.  raised even more doubts.  

I continued to write about this issue in That Thing About Doubt, That Thing About Doubt, continued, and finally in That Thing About Faith...Seeking Revelation where I was finally starting to climb out of the depression and pit of doubt that I had been wallowing in.  Looking back at those last three posts written about 2 1/2 years ago I realized that now I've come even further in this journey.  For instance, in the one post I used quotes from the book No Argument for God...Going Beyond Reason in Conversations about Faith by John Wilkinson.  I no longer embrace everything that was written in that book.  Certainly it touched on the mystery of faith...which is absolutely a component of faith.  But, I no longer agree with the premise that Reason is not a vital component of faith and the conversations we have about it.  In fact, I now believe that Reason is essential.

We live in an age of atheism, agnosticism, & skepticism.  Christianity is looked upon with contempt.  We need Christians who are willing and able to have conversations with those around us who are asking very difficult questions.  I learned this the hard way.  But, looking back on that encounter I had on Facebook three years ago I am actually grateful now.  It has started me on a journey of study and spiritual growth unlike what I have experienced before.  My faith has grown stronger exponentially.  While I feared that the dark time of doubt was going to destroy my faith, it was a necessary refining process.  I think a lot of Christians are afraid of that process.  But, that's why I want to write about it encourage other Christians to consider challenging themselves to think more deeply about why they believe what they believe so that we may be better equipped to reach others in this world.

Check back again soon & I'll tell you more about this journey.

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