Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The atheist and the agnostic

We are visiting my husband's family in good ole Alabama for Christmas! I have found that every stranger I shared the Gospel with this week is a Christian. Of course, I say that tongue in cheek but it is a common belief in most of the South that if you are a good person, have a good reputation, come from a good family and have gone to the same church as long as you can remember, you're saved. I'm not picking on the South because I live in the South too. But, by and large, many church going people believe that they are going to heaven when they die.

That's why one of the best fishin' holes is right inside the walls of your church. You don't have to go to another country to find people who are trusting in their own goodness to get to heaven.

You may also run into fishermen who are just starting out and you may be able to offer encouragement. That's what I did on Sunday. My husband and I were visiting my father-in-law's church and visited a Sunday School class. The teacher, Chris, was leading the discussion about Christians being salt and light to the world found in Matthew 5:13-16.

After the class, my husband and I were able to talk with Chris. He reads his Bible and is praying for deeper understanding and has contemplated attending seminary.

He shared an experience he had at his workplace. He is an executive and had to entertain some clients at a golf outing. One of his clients claimed to be an atheist. He boldly proclaimed Christ but said that he didn't believe he'd made a difference. He just wished he knew how to defend the faith to an atheist. As he recounted the story of sharing with this man, it became apparent that Chris stayed in the realm of the intellect. I shared with him the function of God's law and the proper use of it.

I began by sharing that Psalm 19:7 states, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul..." (NKJV). I used to believe I would not be an effective witness if I did not have a degree in apologetics. But, now I know the law does it all. Here are 4 functions of God's law:

  • Brings the knowledge of sin to the sinner. (Romans 7:7)
  • Stops the sinner’s mouth from justifying itself. (Romans 3:19-20)
  • Helps the world to realize that they are guilty before God. (Romans 3:19-20)
  • Acts as a schoolmaster/teacher to bring us to Christ. (Galations 3:24)

I then shared with Chris that, in all likelihood, the gentleman he spoke to was probably an agnostic. It is important to know the difference between an atheist and an agnostic.

a⋅the⋅ist -(noun) a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings. Origin: 1565–75; Greek; from atheos "to deny the gods, godless," from a- "without" + theos "a god".

I've run into 3 types of atheists when witnessing. The first one has a lack of belief in a god. The second one believes that no god exists at all and cannot exist. The third believes there is a god but doesn't believe in a specific god (i.e.- the one true God of the Bible.) This last group is actually better defined as agnostic and not atheistic.

ag⋅nos⋅tic -(noun or adj.) Greek var. of ágnōtos "not known, incapable of being known" adj. deriv. from base of gignskein to know) + said to have been coined by T.H. Huxley in 1869.
  1. One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.
  2. One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism.
  3. One who is doubtful or noncommittal about something.
I found an interesting word history from an online source. Here is the supposed origin of the word agnostic. It is interesting to note that it did not come into existence until the time period that Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was alive. He published the book "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life." I also observe how interesting it is how few proclaiming evolutionists don't know the full title of his work. They conveniently leave off the last 10 offensive words of the title. But, I digress.

Thomas H. Huxley

Word History: An agnostic does not deny the existence of God and heaven but holds that one cannot know for certain whether or not they exist. The term agnostic was fittingly coined by the 19th-century British scientist Thomas H. Huxley, who believed that only material phenomena were objects of exact knowledge. He made up the word from the prefix a-, meaning "without, not," as in amoral, and the noun Gnostic. Gnostic is related to the Greek word gnōsis, "knowledge," which was used by early Christian writers to mean "higher, esoteric knowledge of spiritual things"; hence, Gnostic referred to those with such knowledge. In coining the term agnostic, Huxley was considering as "Gnostics" a group of his fellow intellectuals—"ists," as he called them—who had eagerly embraced various doctrines or theories that explained the world to their satisfaction. Because he was a "man without a rag of a label to cover himself with," Huxley coined the term agnostic for himself, its first published use being in 1870. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Tips for witnessing to an atheist

When witnessing to one who claims they are an atheist, you can share with them that, by definition, an atheist claims there is no God. But, the laws of logic and reasoning demand that to make such a claim, you must possess ALL knowledge of the universe to defend your claim.

Psalm 14:1 and 53:1 state, "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God." At this point, only a fool would keep holding to the foolish notion that they know and possess all knowledge of the universe. Only if one possessed all knowledge of the universe could one make such a claim. Scientists are still discovering the secrets of the universe everyday and thus, no one possesses all knowledge in or about the universe.

It is very important to know the difference between the two because many unassuming individuals' arguments collapse on the explanation of this one definition. Each hole you can punch in their argument brings you one step closer to tilling the soil of that person's heart and planting the seed as God commanded us to do.

Chris' eyes lit up as he could see that by knowing the difference between the two and then sharing the Gospel by using God's law, one would have a much better chance to plant the seed in the heart of the listener.

Always be ready to help by equipping a fellow brother or sister in Christ to share the Gospel Biblically. I gave him a CD of Hell's Best Kept Secret and told him that if he familiarized himself with this teaching, he would be better prepared to share the Gospel, even with an atheist. If you want to hear the sermon, Hell's Best Kept Secret, click on the link in the upper right hand column.

1 comment:

Wayne Dawg said...

Merry Christmas to you and all your family!!