By Elias Ayala (MDiv & M.A.T.)
When one thinks of apologetics (i.e. defense of the faith), one generally tends to think of the differences and conflict between the Christian and the atheist. However, this is not always the case given the fact that because “apologetics” involves defending a position, persons from all sorts of different positions can engage in this kind of activity. Anyone can be an apologist and therefore engage in apologetics. There are Christian apologists, Muslim apologists, Buddhist apologists, and atheistic apologists. However, generally speaking, it will depend upon the context in which you find yourself, that will affect who you will cater your Christian apologetic to.
Although not a large group when compared to some of the world religions, atheists are very influential in our society today and thus it is helpful to be able to respectfully engage our atheist friends, neighbors, and family members. However, we need to remove some of the mental obstacles which often prevent Christians from interacting with the atheist. I think when we clear up some of the misapprehensions and misunderstandings, we work towards the noble goal of respectful and meaningful interaction.
First, we want to recognize that the average atheist is not some shifty monster lurking in the dark just waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting Christian so as to destroy their faith in Christ. There are atheists like that, but this is not typical of the average atheist that you might encounter. All of this to say, atheists are just people; people with whom we disagree with. Granted, the disagreement is very important and worth cordially and rigorously debating over, but atheists are not people we as Christians should fear or be intimidated by. As defenders of the faith, we need to courageously interact with opposing arguments with the purpose of clarifying and defending the truth claims of the Christian worldview.
The Christian need not fear the argumentation employed by many atheists because the Christian worldview has the capital to both respond with a positive case and respond against objections thrown our way when they attack the integrity of the bible, or appeal to science as though there is significant discord between the Christian faith and the findings of modern science. As Christians and as persons very much concerned with truth, we should be able to invite these objections and meaningfully interact with them so as to fulfill the biblical mandate to “always be ready to make a defense” (1 Peter 3:15).
I think for the average lay Christian, the stereo-type perception of the atheist is that he or she is very scientific and rationally minded. Christians often fear this stereo-type given that many Christians can and are often characterized as irrational and anti-science. However, the irrationality and anti-scientific mentality of some Christians is not an essential feature to the Christian worldview. Indeed, it was within the Christian context in which modern science was birthed and flourished. And a brief perusal throughout the history of western thought will clearly demonstrate that many of the heavy hitters of our intellectual history have been Christians, and that their unique contributions to the history of thought were due to their Christian convictions and outlook on life.
While it is stereo-typical to associate atheism with folks who are “scientifically minded”, Christians need to reclaim their Christian intellectual heritage and demonstrate that things like science, philosophy, history, mathematics, and any other field of human knowledge fit very well and comfortably within the Christian worldview context. I would even go as far to assert that not only do they fit comfortably within the Christian worldview context, but that they do not fit at all within any manifestation of an atheistic worldview. For sure, more can be said and I have not made a particular argument thus far, but enough has been said to get the idea across that Christians have nothing to fear in the market place of ideas, indeed, the Christian worldview is the only worldview context in which the very concept of ideas make sense. Perhaps in a future post, I will expand upon these various points given that a very compelling case for the truth of the Christian worldview can be made when we think of these issues on the worldview level.