Atheist: Paths towards meaningful discussion

Good Morning!

I was wondering if anyone has any insights into opening spiritual conversations with atheists who are expressing little interest in spiritual things. I am regularly meeting with a Jewish gentleman in his early nineties. He was a talented artist in his career. Has been a soldier, firefighter, long distance runner - is feeling very satisfied with his life, and feeling that his life will just stop when he dies.
Are there any doors you test when meeting with an Atheist, that might give you a clue on how to approach the gospel? I’d appreciate any thoughts/experiences you might be willing to share!!

Nathan

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For me personally, I always like to steer the conversation to something we are both passionate about and get into the motivations behind it. I often find people’s true objections are emotional.

Also, it seems like this is a pretty busy person. It appears like he needs a lot of distractions. People who need a lot of distractions occasionally are those who have a hard time sitting quietly along in a room (a la Pascal). It can be beneficial to ask a person from what they need distracting.

I would also steer them towards a conversation about meaning. What does life ultimately mean if it ends when our earthly life ends? Does anything truly matter?

Just a few thoughts. Hope they help.

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Hi @Tacotruck! I’m so glad that you’re engaging with non-Christians!

One thing I’ve found helpful and effective is using good questions. There are two really easy questions that end up opening the door to spiritual conversations quite regularly; they are 1) What do you mean by that? and 2) Why do you think that? When you ask with a genuine desire to understand, you’ll be surprised how open the conversations end up.

When you ask ‘what do you mean by that?’ you’re asking for a clarification of the statement and/or the position. It’s important to know exactly what the person means because 2 things usually happen. First, you’ll have a different interpretation of what is being said, and that’s not good. You want to deal with the actual objection or question rather than a caricature of it. The second thing that happens, especially if the person is repeating a slogan, is that they don’t always know what they mean by the phrase. For example, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” sounds good, but what do you mean by that? Ask him or her to lay it out because chances are that there are misgivings within the explanation that you can engage with further. Once the person has laid out what they mean you will have content to engage but you need to ask the next question before you begin guiding the conversation back to Jesus.

When you ask ‘why do you think that?’ you’re asking for reasons behind the belief and you’ll get an appropriate entry point to the conversation. So, regarding your friend; let’s say the reason he thinks there’s nothing after we die is that we don’t have evidence proving there’s an afterlife. That’s a good reason, but it also allows you now to enter the conversation at a meaningful point. You could respond in several ways depending on your relationship. For example, “That’s an interesting perspective, but if what you’re saying is true wouldn’t we have to be agnostic here since we don’t have evidence showing that there isn’t afterlife? Without evidence for or against we can’t really take a hard position, can we?” or, perhaps, “That makes sense, but have you read JP Moreland’s work on the afterlife? It seems to provide some basis that there is, indeed, something after the grave.” Or whatever else you find appropriate. The best thing about this approach is that if you ask and listen well, the person will tell you exactly how to share Jesus with him or her effectively :slight_smile:

A great book that helps to engage any person is Tactics by Greg Koukl. While I can’t fully endorse his view of the Holy Spirit’s role in sharing the gospel, I’d highly recommend it for a basic and consistent framework for evangelism.

Thanks - appreciate your thoughts! I think the idea of asking questions around meaning sounds good!

Thanks for your time in this,

Nathan

Thanks for your time and effort in this reply - I really appreciate your thoughts on asking questions! I have been taking statements like “Christians that are passionate seem crazy to me”, or “I believe life just ends” as conversation killers, and have just changed direction. The thought of sincerely asking “why” he has come to those conclusions does seem like an excellent thought. I will give it a try when we meet next!

Thanks again for responding,

Nathan