Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Intelligent and Honest Conversation with a Deterministic Atheist

I just had about a 40 minute conversation with a guy in my Philosophy class. We normally have conversations after class and today it was Nietzsche's critique of Christianity as Platonism.

It was a fair conversation, and for once I decided to be open and honest, instead of trying to convert him. That sounds so stereotypical for a Christian to say, but I genuinely mean it, when is the last time you admitted to someone who was 'searching' (as Hybels would say) that you don't understand how God died on the cross but was yet alive and existent.

First I had to talk about Christianity and how it is distinct from Platonic Dualism and Gnosticism (wow we have screwed up in promoting this as Christians). I talked about how God looked at created matter and called it good. I talked about how the New Heaven and Earth would be established ON Earth and would be Material as well as spiritual. He admitted that Nietzsche had misrepresented Christianity and was intrigued. I thank God that I listened to Rob Bell's sermon/lecture on the Judaistic and Truly Christian idea of Heaven as Nature in a perfect remade state.

Then we talked about logic and how I believed it was limited and so I was a bit of a postmodern/existentialist and threw in alot of Kierkegaard and Pascal quotes. It is frustrating because we were trying to label each other, because our whole philosophies are about disproving the other. So while I did a good job disproving Materialism and Evolution he admitted that it might be wrong and that I still had to prove my view. And I admitted that I don't have a theory on how the universe was made and that I didn't believe the earth is 6000 years old.

So it was more than a discussion, it was an honest dialogue, it was a recognition that both of us don't have it all together. Maybe I should've run to my Reformed Theology - I know everything approach, but I decided to tell him that I had faith, and that one of the biggest proofs of my religion was my religious experience - which I admitted people have in religions I consider 'wrong' (he's a psych major, he would've told me this anyway).

I used the Socratic method to get him to admit that there is some logic that is universal and transcendent and then showed him that John 1:1 says that Jesus is the logos - the ancient stoic concept of universal reason/logic which holds all together. He admitted it was pretty smart. I told him that if I was 100% honest with him I would tell him Deism is the most 'logical' or rational approach, but that I believed in Kierkegaard's leap of faith and Pascal's wager and my own personal experience.

It was a strange conversation and in the end I didn't know whether he was angry at me or just confused, but he asked me about my life and I told him of my journey from practical and almost theoretical atheism/deism to Christianity and how God called me into ministry. He actually seemed a bit interested, and I told him that I met good people at bible school and he jumped up - "HA WHAT IS A "Good Person" and so I just calmly told him about John Thomas the man trying to help bring water and education to kids in Darfur, and that in a Darwinian standing he had nothing to gain, and that he was truly acting altruistically. He said something about having a Jesus complex.

In short, I ended it by saying 'well I believe in reason like you, but I also have faith and believe alot of things you don't, but maybe sometime you could tell me what you believe.' He agreed and we parted ways.

I can't stop thinking about it, what I could have said... I explained the atonement and how Jesus died because no one could live perfectly and that God's wrath was satisfied - which he cringed at. He asked me if I believed he is going to Hell. I said 1) Christ tells us we are not to judge anyone else and should worry about our own lives. 2) The Neo-Orthodox/Karl Barth Idea that God is free and can save whoever he wants, so I cannot say. and 3) That when Jesus was on the cross he cried out 'Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing' and that Christ's very character was to forgive. I am not a universalist, but I can hope for it. I know that some people will go to Hell, but I think that I have no place in saying who. He brought up why Jesus said 'God why have you forsaken me' on the cross and claimed it was a sin. I said it was a fact that God had forsaken him in his wrath and that therefore it was not doubt, and that Jesus was quoting Psalm 22:1 referencing prophecy that this would occur. I also explained that Blasphemy is not the unforgivable sin, but refusing (or blaspheming) the Holy Spirit was - a.k.a not accepting Jesus.

I feel like this kind of conversation worked alot better than traditional apologetics, I don't know though. I just was honest about the fact that I believe alot of unreasonable things, but alot of reasonable things as well, and that atheism is alot less reasonable. May God help him, and all of us.

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