My Friend the Atheist
"It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."1
A Daily Encounter reader writes, "I have an atheist friend with whom I am trying to share the gospel. His response to me is that he can't find one shred of evidence that Jesus ever existed. He believes that the Bible is nothing but a bunch of stories. He claims that extraordinary stories require extraordinary proof. Any hint on what I can present to him? My faith is firm, but I cannot seem to budge him."
Hello Kevin (name changed), there's an old saying that says, "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still." There is much truth in this.
The fact is that most people basically believe what they want to believe—what is the most convenient for them—regardless of the facts. Oftentimes refusing to believe in God isn't so much an intellectual problem as it is a moral problem. That is, if a person believes in God, he knows that he is responsible and accountable for how he lives and behaves. To not believe in God gives him the false security that he is accountable to no one but himself. In a sense he becomes a god unto himself—and a law unto himself. Ultimately, this is a dangerous path to follow.
So what can you do to convince an avowed atheist of the reality of God? Not likely through an intellectual argument because he is bound to be too defensive and closed-minded. Regarding his claim that Jesus never existed, you could ask him if he believed that Julius Caesar existed. However, because his mind is already made up—that is closed to any evidence—he won't be convinced even though both persons are as valid as each other. The existence of both persons is a fact of history.
One of the most positive things you can do is to pray that God will help you to be "as Jesus" to your atheistic friend, and grant that he will see Jesus in you, and, in time, want the same for himself. This may or may never happen. However, if he is ever going to "see" Jesus, chances are it will need to be through you. Also, let him know in a low key way that you are always available should he ever need you. Years ago, when I was in the Australian national service, I gave my weekend leave pass to a fellow serviceman who desperately wanted to be home for that weekend. He was so impressed that he, knowing that I was a Christian, wanted to become a Christian too.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to so live that others will 'see Jesus' in me, and grant that they, seeing Jesus in me, will want you in their life too. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Hebrews 9:27 (KJV).