Saturday, February 15, 2014

An Atheist and a Calvinist: A Tale of Two Methods

Thursday night I went to hear a Christian speaker on campus who is a scientist and he was speaking on how modern genetics proves neo-Darwinism wrong. The event was sponsored by the Society for the Advancement of Creation Science (SACS) which their president goes to church with me. The auditorium was almost packed, I estimate about 75 people attended. There were a lot of atheist who came, as well as Christians. The atheists were pretty easy to spot. It was interesting and VERY scientific, so it was all over my head. The speaker hardly mentioned God at all, but when he opened the floor up for questions the majority of people were angrily attacking him for being Christian and believing in God, which had nothing to so with his thorough presentation about modern day genetics. It was getting a little too hostile for me in the Q&A so I left and just sad down in the hallway and prayed for the speaker. I prayed that The Lord would give him strength and the right answers to give these harden-hearted people. And I prayed for the people,that they would see the love and amazement of God.

While I was sitting out there, a guy approached me. I've known him for over a year and he is a very strong Calvinist who is a follower of John MacArthur, a well known scholar who has some very far fetched misinterpreted  views on salvation. I've had some dealings with the student before and he has always been very hostile, even when he is being nice, he just comes across as hostile. So anyways, he and I are making small talk about the lecture we just heard when two guys walked by. One I recognized as a atheist that my friend Corbin and I talked to 3 years ago on the drill field. Corbin shared the gospel with him and brought him to Mr Jabe Nicholson to talk to. The guy has since been involved with the atheist group on campus. I've seen him many times in passing throughout the years but he didn't remember me. But I always had a feeling like I needed to share the gospel with him, but I was never in a situation where the opportunity presented itself.

So the atheist asks us what we thought about it and we told him, and I mentioned that, even though I am a Christian and I believe that God created the world in 6 days like the bible says, I get kind of frustrated when Christians put arguing about Creation/Evolution above sharing the gospel. I agree with them on the issue, but I see sharing the gospel as a much bigger thing than arguing over how old the earth is. The atheist guy agreed with me on that issue. He mentioned that he was an atheist and talked about how he sees issues like climate control as a much bigger issue. Not wanting to open or discuss that can of worms, I kept quiet.

In comes the Calvinist.

C: Are you a good person?

A: I'd like to think so...

C: Have you ever broken any of the Ten Commandments?

A: I don't think so. I grew up Catholic.

C: Have you ever lied?

A: I uh, um, yes, I've lied before

C: What do you call someone who lies?

A: a liar?

C: Correct! You're a liar

A: You're being kinda mean....

ME: That's just his voice, he can't help it (trying a bit of humor to lighten the tension)

C: Have you ever stolen anything?

A: Uh......yeah. When I was in second grade I stole this crystal rock thing because it looked really cool. But then I found out that it was quartz and it was worthless so then I felt bad.

C: What do you call someone who steals?

A: a thief...

C: Have you ever looked at a woman with lustful thoughts?

A: Um......yes....

C: Well, the bible says if you even look at a woman with lust then you have committed adultery in your heart. So by your own admission you are a lying stealing adulterer at heart. You are a sinner

A: I uh, um...

C: The bible says that if you are a sinner you deserve to go to hell.
(At this point the atheist is clearly offended and upset from the time and hostility that the Calvinist is using towards him)

ME: May I interject?

C & A: Yes

ME: Look, I see this all as like a courtroom setting. You know, like the courts we have in America. Laws are set up and if we break those laws we go to court and the judge gives us our punishment. Well, God set up these laws and told us what we can and can't do. But we have all sinned, and the bible says that if we even do one little sin, we deserve to go to hell. God requires perfection to go to heaven, and we aren't perfect. We all deserve hell! Even me! All the terrible things I've done, I deserve hell.

A: But why would you serve a God who is such a tyrant?

ME: He's not a tyrant, I was just getting to that in my analogy.

A: Oh, sorry, go ahead...

ME: It's cool. Now, I'm sitting in front of the judge and he tells me that I've broken his laws and that I deserve punishment. Which I do. But all of a sudden, a man stands up and comes I between the judge and I and says "let me take his punishment instead. I love him and I don't want him to suffer, let me take the pain and suffering so he won't have to". So the judge agrees. The man who stood up turns and says, I'm taking your punishment, if you simply believe that I am paying for your crimes and am saving you from that, then you can be free and live in eternity with me." That man is Jesus, God in the flesh. He loves us so much that he was willing to die for us and he offers everlasting life to all those who simply believe that he is who he claimed to be and that his death  accomplished what he claimed it accomplished. See? He's a loving God, not a tyrant. And even though we may mess up sometimes, he is waiting their with open arms as our father who loves us.

A: Huh....interesting...

C: May I say something?

ME: Sure

C: God doesn't want you. You're a sinner, you admitted it, and God doesn't want sinners. He won't take sinners. All the sins that you have done, you have to stop doing them and then he will take you when you believe in him. You have to turn away from all the sin in your life and the come to him because he doesn't want you right now

*At this point the atheist is very confused and still frightened by the hostile and accusative tone of the Calvinist. Throughout the Calvinist's confrontation the Atheist was slowly backing up, and I could tell by his body language that he was very nervous and uncomfortable.  Luckily, some more outspoken confrontational atheists come up and start arguing with the Calvinist, and he starts using the same questioning tactic with them. I notice that the first atheist is kinda slinking away and I can tell that he is very distraught and confused and timid. While the Calvinist is arguing with the other atheists, I approached the first one a bit always from the group of the others.*

ME: Hey man, I just wanted to let you know that I am sorry about the way he was acting. He and I don't see eye to eye on a lot of things and I'm sorry he came across so hostile.

A:'s fine....he was acting very mean. If someone is trying to share an idea or their faith with you, they should do it in love and compassion, not mean attacking and hostile

ME: Dude! I completely agree with you. And unfortunately there are many people like him that aren't loving like they should be, and I hate it because it isn't right. I can't stand it

A: I can tell that you're a nice guy

ME: Ha, well, I'm a PR major and I love people, and I'm all about showing love and kindness to everyone.

A: That's good

ME: Look, here's my number, and if you ever want to talk more about this stuff, or if you have any questions, I would love to sit down and talk to you about all this in a non confrontation way.

A: I graduate at the end of this semester, but that sounds good, I'd like to do that sometimes.

ME: Awesome! You got my number, just call or text me sometime and we can get coffee and talk

So that was what went down. I was shaking the whole time (partly because I hadn't eaten hardly anything all day and I was nervous) but The Lord kept me calm and let me calmly and in a loving manner share the gospel with the atheist. I was worried because the Calvinist was very hostile and mean to him and shared a false gospel about how God doesn't want him until he cleans up his life, but I now realize that it was a good thing. The atheist saw two different approaches to witnessing. He saw an angry hostile judgmental and condemning person who claimed to be Christian and a quiet loving gentle and compassionate Christian. And he showed more interest in talking with the latter because if the love and compassion. Now, Im not at all trying to make myself look better than the Calvinist, Im just merely observing how the atheist reacted to the two types of approaches. I am argumentative by nature, but the Lord gave me the confidence and the right words to speak to the atheist. I could feel God's presence there. It was amazing.

Jesus never approached lost people and immediately started telling them that they were going to hell. He showed nothing but love and compassion to people. Also, Jesus never said he didn't want sinners, in fact, he said quite the opposite. He said he came to save the sinners. And in the book of John, which was written with the sole purpose of leading an unbeliever to faith, the word faith or believe (same Greek word) is used over 76 times in reference to eternal salvation. Not once does it give any prerequisites or additions to "believe". That is because we are saved by God's grace through our faith alone in Christ alone, not by our works. "Cleaning yourself up" or "stop sinning" is never a requirement to go to heaven.
John 3:16 says that "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life."

The moral of this event is that we should always show love and compassion to people, ESPECIALLY when sharing the gospel with an unbeliever. The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, "If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love."
He then goes on to say in the same chapter, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

Now, some "Christians" who just pick and choose what they like from the bible will focus on the extremes. On one end you have people who focus solely on love, for instance, the author Rob Bell. He is notorious in the Christian community for writing all about how, even if you are living in a life of sin, then God is okay with that, God approves of your sin, and that it is wrong of other believers to confront you, even in love, and try to help you with overcoming your sin. That teaching is completely against scripture. The bible clearly says that if we simply let a brother continue to live in sin without trying to help them or talk to them in love, then that is the opposite of love. The bible tells us that God hates sin, and loves what is good, and that we should do the same. A person's sin does not define who they are. I hate the sin I do, but I don't hate myself. Likewise, we can love a person, but not approve of their sin.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have people like Westboro "Baptist Church", who have the infamous website God Hates Fags .org. Notice I put quotations around the second two words of their name. I put those there because these people have nothing in common with ether Baptists or the Church. These people focus on Gods wrath and judgement. They pick scripture out of context and use it to attack and viciously condemn people. They protest funerals of actors and soldiers because they believe that God killed those people because they were agents of satan. These people focus on hate. I have not heard an ounce of truth come out of these people. They are not a church, they are a violent and vicious hate group.

I do not subscribe to either Calvinism or Arminianism, nor do I affiliate with any denomination. I believe in the Bible, the inherent Word of God in it entirety and in context.

The bible teaches that we need to teach the truth of the gospel of Christ in a loving manner. We are called to tell people that we are all sinners and that we all have fallen short of God's requirement to get into heaven, which is perfection, and that we all deserve the punishment for breaking God's law, and that punishment is hell. But Jesus paid for all of our sins and took on the pain and death that we deserved. He then rose again proving that He was God and that what He said was true. And that if we simply believe that he is who he claimed to be and that his death  accomplished what he claimed it accomplished, then we will spend eternity in heaven with Him.

The word gospel means good news. So its like a bad news/good news type deal. Bad news: we are all sinners and are bound for hell. Good news: God loves us and in his grace he provided a way out. He provided a substitution. He freely offers everlasting life with him to whoever accepts it. We don't deserve this free gift of everlasting life, yet God extends his grace to us. Grace means, an undeserved gift. The offer of Salvation through faith in Christ is that undeserved gift. We are saved simply by grace. And that is amazing!

Do all that you do in a way that is glorifying to God and that shows his love for them.

*UPDATE: Since originally writing this, I have received a text from the atheist and he is open to discussing and hearing what I have to say. And to confirm my suspicions, he did comment on the harsh and hostile methods of the Calvinist, and I informed him that much of what he said and especially about "God not wanting" him was false and was not taught in scripture. I ask for your prayers as I meet with him and share the gospel and hear his views. I know that I am not called to "argue someone to Christ" because that will never work. But we are called to share the gospel. As the writer of Hebrews says: "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart."  My job is simply to share the gospel of Christ's love and grace, the Holy Spirit will take it from there. I will do my best and let God do the rest.

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