On Evangelism

If you’ve not heard, Leah Libresco, formerly a prominent atheist, has converted to Christianity. An interview with her about her journey toward theism can be found at this link. Here’s a sample.

Q. In your interactions with Christians, what were the most productive techniques that you saw used in evangelizing for the faith? What were the least productive (or the counter-productive) techniques that you encountered?

In college, I ran into tabling Christians who had pretty much no familiarity with standard atheist objections (How are the truth claims of your sect differentiated from those of everyone else? Aren’t some of your requests (pray/read the bible until you feel God’s presence) tests that can never fail, even if your claims are false?). If they hadn’t grappled with common objections, I didn’t have a lot of confidence in their conclusions, whatever the pitch.

I was in a philosophical debating group, so the strongest pitch I saw was probably the way my Catholic friends rooted their moral, philosophical, or aesthetic arguments in their theology. We covered a huge spread of topics (R: Defeat McCain, R: All the World’s a Stage, R: Eat the Apple) so I got so see a lot of long and winding paths into the consequences of belief. I know this strategy may not be available to everyone, but all the more reason to bring back debating salon culture!

“Christians who had pretty much no familiarity with standard atheist objections.”

Shame, shame, SHAME on us for not knowing how to speak intelligently and thoughtfully to those who have genuine objections.

4 thoughts on “On Evangelism”

  1. Thanks for keeping awareness on this! While one certainly can’t expect every Christian (or many Christians) to be able to have a grasp on “sophisticated objections” I agree that your criticism still stands, Paul. Generally speaking, there are many Christians in a position of responsibility who don’t take their responsibility seriously enough to equip themselves and others to handle “standard atheist objections”. I’ve run into this same problem related to the church handling Jesus Seminar thought. Marcus Borg has only sold millions of copies of books that equip people with liberal tenuous criticisms of Christianity using standard redaction or form criticism, bringing what used to be discourse confined to “academia” down to the masses. And Christians have overall remained ignorant and wondered why the high percentage of Christian youth abandon the faith when they go off to college. The church is certainly at fault even if not every individual of the church.

  2. I dunno. I think those are fairly sophisticated objections. Not everyone is going to be able to handle that. It’s nice that she met some people whose ideas had more grounding.

    1. That’s fair, Craig. She was a “sophisticated” atheist. But as atheism grows in popularity (ala Dawkins, Dennett, et al.), then so too must Christians arm themselves with appropriate and thoughtful responses. From my view, I do not see the Church here in America valuing apologetics or critical thinking as much as it should. We’re too busy teaching classes on financial stewardship or polishing our stainless espresso makers in our foyers. Don’t mean to sound overly cynical here but the Church continues to have a serious intellectual deficiency, generally speaking.

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