Question of the day: "Does absolute truth exist?"
After introducing myself and using that lead in question to start a conversation, I heard the following objections, questions, and statements:
- I don't need anybody's forgiveness!
- How do you know the Bible is really the word of God?
- If God would appear right in front of me, then I'd believe in Him.
- How can God send people to Hell who have never heard of Jesus?
- How can Allah send people to Hell simply because they don't believe that Jesus is God?
- What about the atrocities of the Crusades?
- We can't know anything for certain.
- I believe in absolute truth, but truth varies from person to person.
- Why do I need to become a Christian when I believe in God and am just as happy as you are?
- To each his own!
- Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?
- Why does God need people to worship Him? That seems selfish.
- I was born a Christian!
- I'm a Christian, but I think God accepts everybody regardless of their religion.
- Why do I have to presuppose the God of the Bible in order to make sense of my experience?
- Which God?
- These types of disagreements cause war, strife, and bloodshed!
Statement # 1 above, "I don't need anybody's forgiveness!" A young man made this statement after I had explained the gospel to him and his other two friends. His body language indicated that he was upset that God would be angry with him for his sins. He was also obviously put off by the idea that he would have to ask God for mercy and put his sole trust in the cross-work of Jesus Christ in order to be forgiven. His personality (from what I could glean in the fifteen minutes that I spoke with him) was that of a strong (physically and psychologically), proud, confident young man. Thus, a God that demanded his submission and allegiance was naturally repulsive, offensive, and ludicrous to him (Rom. 8:7-8; 1 Cor. 1:18; 2:14; 2 Cor. 2:15-16). I responded to his assertion with a simple "Why not? Please explain why you think you don't need God's forgiveness." He was stumped in a good way, but quickly shrugged his shoulders and confidently retorted, "I don't know and really don't care." Though this was a negative response, I still was able to finish the conversation in a positive way after receiving his potentially conversation-ending retort simply because I asked him for clarifying questions and showed a genuine interest in listening to him even though he was somewhat difficult to interact with. He and his friends shook my hand, thanked me for the conversation and I was off to the next person.
Question # 16, "Which God?" I responded to this person by asking, "What do you mean by that?" I then shut up and let them explain themselves. Once they did, I then pointed out how all of the major world religions have competing and contradictory truth claims and so cannot be all true. They agreed, and this allowed me to explain why the Biblical gospel is the truth.
Assertion # 7, "We can't know anything for certain." The young man that said this was the hedonistic "class clown" type of unbeliever that was with a friend who was just like him. I can't recall anything that he said that was in the least bit serious. Not only that, he was clearly "performing" in front of his goof-off buddy, so he wasn't planning on being serious. After he made the above assertion, I asked, "Are you certain about that?" and he responded, "Nope, I can't know anything for certain, including that. Sh*t, I don't even know if I exist!" Although I wanted to slap him to prove to him that he really existed, instead I responded, "If you don't know that you exist, then who is talking to me right now?", he responded, "H*ll man, I don't know." I said, "You're not really interested in having a serious conversation are you?" and he said, "Naw man, I just want to have fun!" I then said, "Well, have a nice day" and strangely enough, they both thanked me for the profitless conversation! Go figure. The above interaction probably lasted less than a minute. I point that out to exhort you to avoid wasting time with people like this. You may be tempted to continue to try to reason with them, but when you get the type of nonsense responses I just described, you are wasting your time, so move on and find someone who will intelligently converse with you.
Assertion # 3, "If God would appear right in front of me, then I'd believe in Him." My response to this young man was, "How would you know that it was really God? How do you know you weren't hallucinating? How would you know that it wasn't a demon or a space alien?" He said, "Highly unlikely" but his friend answered, "No, it's not, you don't really know." It was then that I began to deconstruct this young man's empiricism and then pointed out to him that there's all kinds of things that we believe in that we don't and can't experience through the five senses (i.e., the existence of other minds, logical laws, etc.). Then he seemed more willing to listen to what I had to say.
IN CONCLUSION, it is important that we think about how to intelligently and courteously interact with the above questions and assertions while giving Biblical answers. All of the above encounters (except the one with the hedonists), allowed for a profitable conversation that led to a full presentation of the gospel. Some of these unbelievers (i.e., the Muslims) had never heard an explanation of why the cross of Christ is necessary for salvation. This is extremely important since the very thing that Islam repudiates is the only thing that can save them from sin and provide the necessary grounds for forgiveness without making Allah unjust (Pro. 17:15; Rom. 3:26). Examples like this could be multiplied from yesterday, but the important thing is to be ready to answer with gentleness and respect, thus earning an opportunity to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).