As expected, today's opening outreach for the Fall was interesting. We were able to hand out many invitations to the upcoming debate with the UNCG Atheists, Agnostics, and Skeptics on the subject, "Does the Christian God Exist?"
Because I have been focusing on our upcoming debate, I was issuing clear verbal challenges for rational discussion with secularists while I was open-air preaching. This created no small stir. After open-air preaching for about 1.5 hours, an atheist student associated with the above group briskly walked up and stood directly in front of me such that I was literally preaching over his head for a few seconds. Once he positioned himself directly in front of me he started laughing at me while smoking his cigarette. I knew where this was going, so I immediately stepped off my soapbox and tried to engage him in a rational conversation as he continued to giggle at me like a little schoolgirl. Like many new atheists I've encountered, he didn't want to engage in rational discussion, but instead he equated making fun of someone with an argument. Thus, I asked, "You're laughing at me because you think that what I believe is ridiculous, right?" He affirmed as much with a nod and stopped laughing long enough for me to attempt a discussion regarding the metaphysical and epistemological problems associated with accounting for logic given naturalistic materialism. We didn't get very far because of what follows.
At this time, the UNCG Police arrived and I greeted them with a handshake and informed them of my purpose for being there. Apparently, (1) the atheist's standing directly in front of me while I was preaching and my promptly stepping down to attempt a conversation with him provoked someone to call the police, and (2) after I stepped off my step stool to engage the atheist in conversation, I stepped off of public property (the sidewalk) onto the campus lawn (private property). The police kindly and respectfully informed me that technically (heretofore unbeknownst to me), I'm not allowed to be on the campus proper unless I'm either a student or I'm invited on campus by an outside organization.
I told the officers that I had contacted their boss, Major Herring, before the Spring semester 2010 and that he had informed me that I could not open-air preach on campus, but that the public sidewalks were open game. Thus, I wrongly assumed that it was okay to walk onto campus and have one-on-one conversations with students as long as I wasn't open-air preaching. I apologized to the officers, told them that I misunderstood their boss, and that we would be sure to stay on the public sidewalks in the future. They shook my hand, I gave them my ministry card, and they clearly expressed their appreciation for my being at the campus to share the gospel with these students. I am thankful that these officers are there to ensure that order and peace is maintained so that the gospel can be proclaimed.
I finished our outreach today by conversing with a secular Jew who came up to me and tried to hand me a book while I was preaching. He was pretty silly and didn't take seriously much of anything I said until I started to explain to him why he was going to Hell if he refuses to repent and embrace the Messiah he's rejected. He received much of his "understanding" of Christianity from movies and I said, "My friend, you need to get your theology from the Bible and not from the TV." He admitted that he had never really read the Bible so I gave him a compact copy of the ESV. We finished our conversation and went our separate ways.
In conclusion, I surely hope that the type of irrational behavior displayed today by our atheist friend isn't indicative of what we'll be seeing in next week's debate. Meanwhile, we'll just have to wait and see.