Setting the captives free, one (or two?) at a time
Published: 10 April 2014 (GMT+10)
Wanting to talk, the young man began by unashamedly declaring to me, “I am an atheist.”
I was thrilled. You see, the time was a Sunday morning, and the place was a church in a large regional city in Australia—the service had just finished.
Now some might say that a church is no place you’d expect to find an atheist. So why was he here? Perhaps he’d come along having been stirred by one of the letterbox flyers the church had distributed welcoming all to their ‘Creation Sunday’? They had advertised that a PhD scientist (me, as it happened) would speak on the creation/evolution controversy.1
I wondered if this atheist was angry about what I’d presented to the congregation today. But there was no hint of any anger or hostility in his demeanour. Rather, he proceeded to question me on scientific aspects arising from the evidence for creation and the problems for evolutionary theory that I’d presented during the church service.
More particularly, he raised matters that I hadn’t had time to address within the time allowed for a church sermon. From his reactions to my responses, I got the impression that he was surprised that there were straightforward answers to his challenges, e.g. how could Noah have fitted all the animals on the Ark, and how they came to be distributed around the world afterwards.
By the way, those questions could have been answered by any Christian armed with The Creation Answers Book—it equips the layperson to fulfil 1 Peter 3:15. This is why CMI speakers take a core selection of books, DVDs, and Creation magazine out to the churches. A creation speaker cannot possibly hope to rebut anywhere near all the claims of the evolution story within the time allocated for a church presentation. Not when you consider the unending seven-days-per-week, hour-by-hour evolutionary indoctrination via classroom, lecture theatre, textbook, newspaper, magazine, nature documentary, television news bulletin, internet, museums, interpretive tourist signs, botanic gardens, etc. But a creation speaker can aim to present sufficient examples of how Christians can use the available creation resources to answer skeptical objections, and hopefully motivate them to do so.
And it’s amazing what presenting the truth can achieve in just a short time. Even the atheistic anti-creationist Eugenie Scott, the then leader of the anticreationist National Center for Science Education, tacitly admitted that if students heard criticisms of evolution (e.g. even if only during a one-off presentation from a visiting creation speaker), they might end up not believing it:
“In my opinion, using creation and evolution as topics for critical-thinking exercises in primary and secondary schools is virtually guaranteed to confuse students about evolution and may lead them to reject one of the major themes in science.”2
CMI-USA’s Dr Jonathan Sarfati (above) and Dr Don Batten of CMI-Australia (below), addressing church congregations in their respective countries. CMI has a panel of internationally acclaimed and qualified speakers, with offices not only in USA and Australia, but also in four other nations around the world. To request a speaker, see: Ministry programs for your church or organization.
Anyway, back to the atheist. While his initial challenges to me arose out of his presupposing that evolution and its billions-of-years were true, he very quickly shifted his focus to issues relating to the ‘believability’ of the Bible.
“Let me tell you, I was raised in the church,” he said. “I’ve read the entire Bible, cover-to-cover. And that’s why I walked away. Because of all the contradictions in it.”
He said this very matter-of-factly, i.e. without any hostility or passion, but clearly wanting me to respond to this challenge. So I replied, as equally matter-of-factly as I could, that while skeptic websites listing claimed Bible contradictions abound, anyone seriously wanting to find out how Christians address these can do so very quickly and easily via the internet. I then added, “But lest you think I’m trying to fob you off, tell me the ‘Bible contradiction’ that’s the biggest stumbling block to belief for you personally, and I’ll see if I can answer it right away.”
Without any hesitation he told me it was the issue of putting God to the test—some Scriptures seemingly say to do so (e.g. Malachi 3:10, Romans 12:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:21), others clearly not (e.g. Deuteronomy 6:16, Matthew 4:7).
I answered: “I’ve often wondered on this issue myself, and matters arising. For example, it initially did seem unfair to me that Zechariah (father of John the Baptist) was penalized for questioning the angel [Luke 1:18,20] while Mary was not [Luke 1:34–38]. But then I heard a couple of great sermons on this topic, which although I can’t remember enough to adequately reproduce all of the points here now, one thing I do recall that stood out, viz., a key to all this is the attitude of the heart [e.g. Matthew 5:8, 22:37, Acts 15:8, Hebrews 4:12]. Remember God said to Cain, ‘If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?’ [Genesis 4:7] And so I see now too that Mary, having a servant heart [Luke 1:38], and being an unmarried virgin at the time, was more than justified in questioning the angel in a way that Zechariah, a married man and High Priest at the time, was not. And I note that Gideon, on the second time he put out the fleece, entreated God, ‘Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece.’ [Judges 6:39] God looks at the heart [1 Samuel 16:7]. If you seek him with all your heart, He will not reject you [Deuteronomy 4:29, Psalm 51:17]. Seek and you will find, said Jesus [Matthew 7:7].”
I was heartened that while I’d been saying all this, the young man had been listening intently—as had for the last minute or so a young lady who’d come and sat down with us. I finished my spiel on ‘Bible contradictions’ with a question: “Incidentally, if you don’t mind me asking, why did you, as an atheist, come to this Sunday church service?”
Nodding towards the young lady, he introduced her, and answered me, in the one breath, “This is Catherine—she invited me.”
Facing him, the young lady immediately spoke up. “Well! You’ve sure gone off-topic!” she said.
The young man said to her quite firmly, “No. In fact, we’re right on-topic.”
There was an awkward silence, which the atheist broke by thanking me warmly, and the two of them left me.
The pastor later informed me that Catherine had never previously come to this church, in fact, not any church. She had come along today because she had been invited by one of her university student girlfriends, who is a Bible-believing and active member of this congregation. Catherine in turn had brought along her atheist boyfriend, who’d so boldly come up to question me after the service. Evidently she was disappointed to discover that her boyfriend’s conversation with me had so quickly morphed from his initial ‘scientific challenges’ of my beliefs into an earnest discussion about God’s Word and His call on our lives. (Now that I knew that she was a non-Christian who’d likely brought her atheist boyfriend along as ‘protection’ against ‘brainwashing’, her “You’ve gone off-topic” lament was understandable. Imagine their conversation in the car on the way home!)
Invite one atheist, get another, free
This unfolding of events amazed me because it was the second time in a month that this had happened. Just a few weeks earlier, as I’d finished presenting at a Sunday morning service in a different city, a fit-looking gentleman in his late 70s had approached me and introduced himself boldly with the same line, “I’m an atheist!” We then talked at length. Although he was initially arrogantly confident that his atheism was justified by the ‘truth’ of evolution, and utterly dismissive of the Bible, he soon became much more circumspect. His increasingly agitated demeanour showed that his atheism had been ‘shaken’.
It turned out that this atheist also had come along because his non-Christian girlfriend had asked him to accompany her to church. She in turn was responding to an invitation from a believer in the congregation. While he was speaking with me, she too had been concurrently engaged in a deep-and-meaningful conversation with another believer. The atheist and his lady friend were subsequently seen sitting together during morning tea with very furrowed brows, in earnest discussion—and later when walking home, too.
It occurred to me that the evangelistic Christians at these two churches were being rewarded with a ‘two-for-one’ deal at present—invite one atheist and get another, free!
Actually, our whole raison d’être is indeed to get, or more correctly, set, others free. To set the captives free—people who have been taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophy; by the godless philosophy of evolution, a powerful delusion. (Isaiah 42:7, 49:9, Luke 4:18, Colossians 2:8, 2 Thessalonians 2:11)
Are the two atheists, and their unbelieving lady companions, on their way to becoming free, i.e. Bible-believing Christians? Certainly if they want to be set free from being captive to deceptive and hollow evolutionary philosophy, they have now been presented with the intellectual framework to rationally turn to that which our Lord Jesus Christ offers instead. Whether their hearts will be willing to do so—well, time will tell. As it has with the following pastoral reports and personal testimonies we have recently received reporting about, or from, six former ‘captives’. Some are only newly tasting freedom, while others were long ago freed through God using this ministry (Creation magazine commenced in 1978) and their conversion stories have only now been sent to us. (Their ongoing walk-with-Christ demonstrates the sincerity of their conversion.)
“Just thought you might like to pass on to [CMI speaker] Dr John [Anderson] and his wife that after their visit last fortnight to our church, we have some great news! I had a follow-up coffee meeting with a young single lady, Sarah, who came along to listen, four days later, and she became a Christian. She is coming to church and bringing a friend who has six children … so that’s eight impacted by Creation Ministries. Thank you and God Bless the team abundantly.”—Pastor J.H.
“Your material was crucial to my decision to accept Christ back in 1988. I had been brought up on a diet of science and evolution in both school and University. … [Your creation materials showed me that] science is actually not at odds with God … So thank you for your resources for the academically minded. Without these resources, people like me would have to wade through a lot more unsatisfactory answers before trusting God for salvation.”—Anita G.
“I can testify (and I know you have other such testimonies on file—I’ve read them) that CMI is not only helpful to those whose faith is floundering but to those who never had any to begin with as well. Having grown-up in a largely secular environment and essentially been a deist all of my life, I had simply taken it for granted that there was no logically sound case for Christianity, and that the naturalistic historical stories pushed so fervently by most of the mainstream media (as well of course as attacks on the absolute accuracy of the other historical canonical books) were basically uncontroversial fact. When, in my hour of need, the Holy Spirit led me to CMI, I found out in a matter of weeks how wrong I had been. I know beyond doubt that there are many more people in my former position out there and I intend to devote the rest of this leg of my life to reaching them with the sort of well-reasoned case which CMI so excels in. Jesus told His disciples in their day that the time was ripe for the harvest (John 4:35-38), the ensuing centuries of course bore Him out, and I firmly believe that the same is true for us at the current time. Others have sown all the seeds, and it is now our time to reap. Praise God!”—Rich D.
“After about 10 years your magazine is still very good with many fascinating articles. I was telling someone of how I was converted and they said, “You should write to Creation magazine and tell them.” So that is what I am doing. My wife subscribed to the magazine and encouraged me to read it, telling me how good it was. However I was adamant that it couldn’t be as it was a Christian magazine. A number of issues came and were ignored by me, however one day I decided I would have a look inside. I was very surprised. It was easy to read and I loved it and ended up reading it all. The Holy Spirit used it to challenge me. … This was very pivotal in my conversion and showed me who Jesus was and what He had done.”—Jonathan B.
“I recently gifted my friend, Steven a subscription to Creation magazine. It is with great joy that I can share with you that my friend has accepted Jesus as his Lord and Saviour! Your magazine helped this decision along with providing evidence of God’s Creation and His love for us all. Thank you for your continued and wonderful work. May God bless your efforts in sharing His Truth.”—Sandra P.
“CMI can take credit for my wife Melissa’s becoming a Christian. When we first met it was a lovely summer day and we decided to sit down together and have a drink. I didn’t know at the time that a day or two before, she had been sitting (literally) on the edge of a cliff, desperately in need of answers to everything. Evolution did not come up as a subject at first but was rather woven into her conversation as a given—her earlier uni studies in anthropology had been steeped in evolutionary-based thinking. That was all I needed, thanks to information I gleaned from your ministry. For most of the next three hours we chatted about the mountain of evidence against evolution, which may not sound very romantic but opened the way for her to seriously consider the claims of Christianity. Within six months Melissa had what she refers to as a ‘knee-buckling experience’ when the reliability of Scripture and the-too-good-to-refuse-offer of the Gospel came home to her, and she became a Christian.”—Julian A.
That’s what it’s all about; setting the captives free—one (or two!) at a time. Not just from evolution, but in and for Christ (Acts 4:12).3
How to prevent your children being taken captive
One of the great outcomes of a CMI ministry visit to a church is that the children become equipped to resist evolutionary philosophy—even if they missed the presentation/sermon, e.g. because of attending Sunday School. How so? Through the subsequent teaching impact of creation resources that the parents, motivated by the CMI presentation, purchased afterwards.
While the books and DVDs play an important role, the ongoing quarterly arrival of Creation magazine is a crucial reminder to ‘think creation’—i.e. to bring every thought into captivity in obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) in this key area of origins.
What’s more, for many young people, it’s fun! From 12-year-old Peter’s letter to us for example, we see that reading ‘creation stuff’ is certainly no chore:
“Your magazine is great … As soon as it comes through the door the wrapper comes off and I’m reading it. I wish it came more often. Keep up the good work!”—Peter L., age 12
And just look at what a difference it can make at the ‘business-end’ of high school:
“I’m a year 12 student and have been reading creation ‘stuff’ for years. It is a lot of fun and I have actually found that I am acing yr 12 Biology (specifically evolution) because I seem to know more about it than my teachers—haha.”—Matthew S.
Everyone knows ‘prevention is better than cure’. So, for the sake of the young people in your church, why not recommend that the parents subscribe to Creation magazine? It’s got a proven track record in preventing youngsters from subsequently being taken captive by the hollow and deceptive philosophy (Colossians 2:8) that is evolution. And as the above testimony from Matthew S. shows, they’ll even be equipped to take an active frontline role against it!
And with the digital option now available, your subscription can be accessed on five separate devices (including laptops, iPads, tablets, smartphones). This means that everyone’s children can have their own copy. For further info on subscription options and pricing details, click here.
References and notes
- For information on CMI speaker visits to address churches, see under ‘Speaking and direct ministry’ on the What we do page. CMI speaker presentations demonstrate that there are straightforward answers to the common objections and queries people have relating to the creation/evolution issue, which are some of the most frequent objections to faith in Christ. Return to text.
- Witham, L., Where Darwin Meets the Bible, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 23. Return to text.
- CMI exists as a ministry specifically to help the church fulfill its Christ-given charter, at a time that evolutionary teaching is leading many astray. To see ways in which CMI can assist your church, see What we do. Return to text.
Thank you for your response, David. You have probably looked up the Greek translation, but for the sake of any readers who might be interested I would be glad if you would publish the following literal translation of Matthew 1 verse 20, in part:
"...an angel of [the] Lord by a dream appeared to him saying: Joseph son of David not fear thou to take Mary the wife of thee ...."
Thank you for the encouraging article “Setting the Captives Free ....” (Apr. 10). I would just like to point out one thing I believe is an error. You have stated that Mary was an unmarried virgin - “Mary, having a servant heart [Luke 1:38], and being an unmarried virgin at the time ....). Mary was indeed a virgin but she was not unmarried. Matthew makes this clear (Matt. 1: 18 - 20). The covenant of marriage had been established between Joseph & Mary in all but the seal - sexual intercourse.
In modern marriages this usually takes place on the wedding night or soon after but, in New Testament times, some time was allowed to elapse before the covenant was sealed in this way. The angel clearly states that Mary was Joseph’s wife. Joseph would not have thought of “putting her away” or divorcing her if they had not been married
Today, immorality is everywhere and the permissive society is being accepted as the norm, but not by Christians. CMI is resisting the teachings of modern theology concerning Genesis. I think it is important also to take care not to fall into the error of modern theology in its interpretation of the New Testament.
Thanks for this. It seems I've been overly-influenced by the modern meaning of 'marriage', and by the angel's counsel to Joseph (Matthew 1:20): "do not fear to take Mary as your wife" (rather than 'keep').
[PostScript: See the subsequent comment on this from correspondent C.M. below.]
The Holy Spirit moving in the atheist’s heart will convert. We, as God’s people, just need a solid defense of the faith. CMI is one of the many organizations that explains the defense that’s free to all.