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Four prominent atheists. Clockwise from top-left: Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris.

Giving airtime to atheists?

Some Christians, while staunch supporters of the work and ministry of CMI, can find it perplexing that we seem to be publicising the views of avowed atheists, or even God-haters. For instance, Alan F. from the UK queried our decision to discuss statements by former Oxford University professor, Richard Dawkins:

Dear CMI I thank you for you ministry and the work you do, but are you seriously using Richard Dawkins to further the kingdom of God? It is bad enough that this man is given the amount of media coverage that he is. Please reconsider giving him any more [coverage]. Thank you.

Philip Bell, CMI-UK/Europe responds:

Dear Alan,

I can understand what you’re saying. However, there are several reasons why we choose to refer to statements made by Richard Dawkins.

1. It bolsters faith

Sadly, some people—usually Christians who are ill-taught regarding the Scriptures, whose faith is somewhat shaky—are perturbed by his writings. Unwisely, they read his books and get hoodwinked into thinking that some of his arguments are valid. We believe it’s important to put the record straight. An example of such a person springs to mind. We were able, by the grace of God, to help a 79-year-old man on his journey back to faith in Christ. After a previous profession of faith (which he described to me as a “Damascus Road experience”) his faith was ship-wrecked by his reading of Dawkins; he ended up an atheist for many years, unhappy and wretched, by his own admission. Years later, having read some books from CMI, he came back to the Lord and was still going strong in his early 90s. Of course, other stories do not have such a happy ending.

2. It arms and equips

It actually greatly encourages Christians who, now armed and equipped with solid refutations of Dawkins’ claims, can confidently share their faith with others. We have received testimonies to this effect many times. Not only that, some people have come to faith in Christ as a direct result of such refutations, for example by reading Jonathan Sarfati’s book-length critique of one of Dawkins’ books, The Greatest Show on Earth.

3. It has biblical warrant

While we shouldn’t be overly fixated on the works and words of anti-Christian men and women, there is biblical warrant (indeed exhortation) to counter anything that is an obstacle to God’s Word:

“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and understanding” (2 Timothy 4:2).
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ …” (2 Corinthians 10:4–5).
“[B]ut in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect …” (1 Peter 3:15).
“I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

These Scriptures indicate that ungodly, anti-Christian ideas will be raised up as proud obstacles to Christian faith, that Christians must contend for the truth, cast down arguments and pull down strongholds of unbelief and arrogance, even rebuking the adversaries of God—always of course with a meek and humble attitude and in the love of God.

Over the years, I have met Christians who pray for Richard Dawkins. The plight of such men is very sad for, albeit unwittingly in most cases, they’re tools in the hand of the Adversary of people’s souls (1 Peter 5:8). As with all unbelievers, they’re heading out to eternal ruin and punishment unless they call upon the name of Jesus in repentance and faith (Romans 10:13). I do understand that Dawkins’ evolutionary propaganda and anti-Christian sentiment is often very distasteful. I myself found this in reading and refuting his book The God Delusion, but it was, I believe, a necessary (if unpleasant) task.

Yours sincerely,

Philip Bell

First published: 26 November 2016
Re-featured on homepage: 28 January 2023

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