Handling Aggressive Atheists
When sharing one’s faith, it can be difficult to respond to atheists who mock the message of salvation. CMI’s Keaton Halley gives some advice to a questioner. N.W., Australia, writes:
As a Christian I find sharing the gospel very difficult. Not in that I don’t know how but in how do you respond to atheists who angrily attack Christianity? I’m finding no one can have a normal discussion. Maybe you can touch on this or point me to an article that address this.
Thank you for contacting CMI. I’m glad you are trying to reach people with the Gospel and thinking strategically about your approach.
There is no simple formula for dealing with a hostile atheist, but in such encounters we should exercise wisdom and follow biblical principles, such as:
- Consider yourself blessed and rejoice that you are enduring hardship (even if it is as minor as being mocked) for Christ’s sake (1 Pet. 4:13–14). Your reward is in heaven (Matt. 5:11–12).
- Don’t respond in kind, since we are not to return evil for evil (1 Pet. 3:9) but to keep a clear conscience (1 Pet. 3:16). We should not answer a foolish person by adopting his bad behavior or wrong way of thinking (Prov. 26:4, and see Don’t Answer—Do Answer). Though directness and strong words are sometimes called for, remember that “a soft answer turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1).
- If you can tell that you are wasting your breath on somebody only interested in mocking rather than pursuing truth, move on (Matt. 7:6). You might explain to your critic that there is no point in continuing the discussion unless he is willing to dial back the emotions, really listen when it is your turn to speak, etc.
- Be prepared to gently and respectfully defend your Christian convictions (1 Pet. 3:15). This means you have to know your Bible and be ready with answers to common objections. We have lots of free material on our website that can help you to do this! Read The Creation Answers Book if you haven’t yet.
- Remember that your job isn’t to convert atheists; only the Holy Spirit can do that. Rather, your job is to be faithful in sharing your faith. And if you are sharing the true Gospel, you are guaranteed to have some people reject and mock the message.
Beyond this, my advice is that you challenge the skeptic to defend his positions too. Don’t just let him control the conversation and make you come up with evidence for your views. If he makes an assertion without giving a reason, ask him, “why do you believe that?”
Finally, you can learn from the examples of others. In the Bible, you can see how Jesus and the apostles dealt with hostile critics. You can also dig through our feedback archive and find replies to many angry emails, like this one.
Hope that helps. Best wishes in your evangelistic efforts.