On October 14, 2012, Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg hosted a conference designed to both help Christians understand atheists and help atheists understand the journey many have traveled from atheism to a faith in Jesus. Guest speakers included Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. Holly Ordway, and Got Questions Ministries board member and co-founder Randall Niles. The conference was simulcast, but no DVD will be offered.

Unpacking Atheism

Part 3: Reaching Atheists

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Part 1 | Part 2

The end of both sessions of the Unpacking Atheism Conference were given to thoughts on reaching atheists with the gospel without making them want to run away screaming.

Debating God

Dr. William Lane Craig is one of the foremost Christian apologists in the world and one of the few who is willing and able to debate anyone, anytime. When asked if debates can actually make a difference, he assured that they did. He said university students in particular need debates because they distrust anyone who only gives them half of the argument. And the nature of debate is to be academic, not political or personal. Personal attacks have no place in academic discourse.

In his career, Craig has debated many atheists, including the late Christopher Hitchens. Craig explained that Hitchens was an anti-theist, an old-school atheist who was more against the ills of organized religion than the existence of God. Craig said that students, including Christian students, liked Hitchens and saw him as the old curmudgeon uncle. Richard Dawkins, on the other hand, has refused to debate Craig*, finally resorting to attacks on Craig's character when his continued boycott started riling Dawkins's own students. On the other hand, Craig and Quinton Smith, atheist and philosopher of physics, are good friends. You can read one of their debates here.

Practical Evangelism

After the interviews with Dr. Holly Ordway and Randall Niles, Dr. William Lane Craig rejoined the group to talk about practical ways to reach atheists.

Dr. Craig suggested embodying 1 Peter 3:15 and to be prepared. The typical atheist argument is: "There's no evidence for God's existence." Memorize three or four arguments for God's existence. A couple of the proofs he mentioned (see list below), given in a gentle and respectful tone (2 Timothy 2:24-25), will disarm the argument enough to continue on to more personal matters.

Dr. Ordway spoke from her personal experience. Don't be pushy, but do be open. Being a Christian should be a casual and open part of any believer's life, as evident as any profession or hobby. She also noted the importance of reflecting faith through art. Not only because the appreciation of art may lead an atheist to investigate the inspiration of the art, but also because Christian themes (such as Aslan) can give an atheist context for concepts that would otherwise be completely foreign.

Randall Niles pointed out that he needed to become a good listener. Ask a lot of questions. Drop "nuggets" of applicable truth instead of giving lectures. Added to that is the importance of finding out why people believe what they do. Many atheists have very good reasons for rejecting religion. Affirming their story gives credibility when a believer explains the difference between God and man's actions in the name of God.


Finally, the hosts mentioned several books. Strobel's The Case for Christ and The Case for a Creator are classics. The hosts collaborated on The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask. And Dr. Craig, along with his apologetic standards, On Guard and Reasonable Faith, is coming out with a series of children's picture books on the nature of God.

The goal of both Niles's and Blogos's parent site is to make Christian truths and apologetics available online. Here are a few articles directly applicable to the conference:

General Arguments for the Existence of God

Cosmological Argument/Kalam Argument

Ontological Argument

Teleological Argument/Anthropic Principle/Fine-Tuning

Moral Argument

Transcendental Argument & the Problem of Good/Evil

Other Atheist Arguments

Belief that God is a virus + the God Gene Belief that God is a delusion Faith in God is a crutch

Atheists and their Beliefs

Evidence for the Truth of Christianity/Jesus

Evidence for the Existence of Jesus

Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

* Craig explained that the two have been asked to debate by several independent organizations, but Craig has never personally challenged Dawkins. He's willing; he's just not going to push it. Ironically, on the night this conference was held in Denver, Dawkins was in Boulder, CO.

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Published 11-7-12