The go-to verse for Biblical Christians to dismiss nonbelievers is in the Old Testament:
“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,there is none who does good.”
— Psalms 14:1
So with this perverted view of nonbelievers, why even engage nasty foolish atheists in debate? Well, Biblical Christians who like to debate or argue with a nonbelievers run to the New Testament’s author of 1 Peter for support:
“… always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully.”
— 1 Peter 3:15
So it appears that it is OK for the Biblical Christian to debate Atheists if they remember the important Biblical distinction between quarrelsome arguing and logical defense:
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil.”
— 2 Timothy 2: 24
Yet in the previous verse, the same author of 2 Timothy also says:
“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.”
— 2 Timothy 2:23
So the Biblical Christian has a problem: Since Atheists are are corrupt fools, how can their arguments be anything but foolish, ignorant controversies and thus unworthy of debate – even logical defensive debates.
2 Possible Christian Solution:
- Figure out which objections are not foolish even though they are coming from a fool, address those objections.
- Don’t argue for the fools sake expecting the fool to understand, but so that others Christians who may be listening may be edified or agnostics (those not adamant about “no God!”) may be persuaded.
Yet the Bible’s wisdom literature offers further checks on argumentative Christians and make it even more difficult to debate at all:
- Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm. — Proverbs 3:30
- Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words. — Proverbs 23:9
- A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. — Proverbs 29:11
- A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools. Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence. Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools. — Proverbs 26:3-12
These verses seem to steer Biblical Christians away from dealing with foolish atheists in anyway. So being consistent in one’s Biblical approach to debating nonbelievers is a challenge for Biblical Christians.
- Decide that Bible is written by lots of different folks with different theologies and thus contradictions are to be expected. The Bible is not a coordinated effort by God, but written by men (and maybe a woman or two) with their own limited insights, biases and agendas.
- Decide that Bible authors never meant for their sayings to be taken as literally, categorically or as universal truth applicable to all situations.
- Cherry pick stuff to match your personality.
- Try and fit all these passages together with lots of caveats into such a convoluted theological knot that no one dare waste time trying to untie it.
- Have faith that all this stuff fits together perfectly and that God’s Holy Spirit will guide you in understanding. Be OK with the complications because God tells Christians that “my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
Question for readers: Do you see any other solutions?