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Talking to Atheists

Ursinus College“What about all the contradictions in the Bible?”

I was speaking at Ursinus College on Wednesday night hosted by the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship group there on the topic, “Is God Angry or Loving?” based on ch. 2 of God Behaving Badly–a talk I’ve given multiple times on campuses and at churches.  And while I love speaking on my book, the highlight of the evening came during the Q & A time (I like to call it Q & Q- because I like to ask questions), when students like Mandy asked me about all those biblical contradictions.  Mandy was one of at least two self-identified atheists who came to the meeting and asked questions.

I left the campus after 11:00 pm thinking about several things that impressed about the evening.

1) The Christians at Ursinus were talking to atheists and inviting them to hear a strange Old Testament professor talk about God.  I don’t speak to any atheists on a regular basis.

2) The atheists at Ursinus were willing to come listen to this strange OT prof.  I’ve never gone to hear an atheist speak (although I bought and read much of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion).  

3) The atheists at Ursinus were willing to ask questions to this strange prof.  I’ve been at a lot of these types of Q&A discussions, and this one was lively, engaging, and yet still civil.

Matthew asked, “How does one determine which laws from the Bible are meant to still be obeyed and which ones can be ignored?”  I asked him how does he decide and he said, “I don’t.  I’m an atheist.”  I replied, “Great, so you’re off the hook.”  We laughed.

I said, “Laws that get repeated in other parts of the Bible we know are important, like when Jesus said the two greatest commands are: 1) Love God completely (Deut. 6:5) and Love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18)–both of those are definitely still valid.  And while I prefer all cotton, I don’t worry too much about the commands to not mix different types of clothing materials (Deut. 22:9-11).”  I told Matthew, I’d love to have him in class someday.  He and Mandy were asking good questions.

How would you have responded to Matthew or Mandy?  

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