“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” James 2:19
This week I had another chance to witness about Jesus to someone. Once again I had dinner someplace I normally wouldn’t go, and the opportunity arose.
The place was Father Tom’s Pub, a nice little Irish-themed place in a small town downtown. One wall is completely brick with photos and artwork. The bar is all wood, as are the tables and chairs. Great food, but I was eating alone as usual.
Except for my book of the history of the early church by Eusebius.
As I was finishing, an older man came by, saying he noticed my book and that it isn’t every day he sees someone reading that sort of material. He was Father Tom. Assuming he’s Christian I continued our conversation. Then he said he didn’t believe in Creation. I was astonished! Then he said he sees Genesis as a book of fables, not to be taken literally at all.
Turns out that the “Father” was just affected for the pub’s name. He’s really agnostic. My mind started racing to think of what I can say to him to get him thinking. There was no chance of changing his mind that evening, but I wanted to give him something to shake that position; give him a chance to hear God’s call.
I tried The Exodus case (see my book review in Archives) with archeological finds that support a literal reading of Exodus. He made a comment that my problem was that I took Genesis seriously. Smiling, I said it isn’t my problem. The problem is his, because he doesn’t. I told it saddened me that he was on the path to hell. Why should I care? Because he’s a human being, valuable. If someone is in trouble, we should try to help them. Even if they are causing their own harm.
I raised a number of things, which brought us to the Middle East conflicts. He said those are unsolvable. No one even knows how the whole thing started. Oh, yes we do. Abraham’s sons Isaac and Ishmael are the beginnings of the Jews and Arabs, respectively. There lies the problem. I asked him who the Arabs/Muslims have been killing. He offered any number of groups; Americans, Germans, etc. I said yes, but what do all of those have in common. He paused, and that’s when I saw it. I called him on it.
“You know! You know they are killing Christians, and you know it’s all true, but you won’t say it. You won’t say it, because if you do, you’ll be affirming what you so desperately don’t want to believe. Forming those words with your mouth will hurt too much!”
I stared him down hard as he pursed his lips.
“You’re right. I know, but I won’t say it.”
“…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
Saying something makes it real. If you don’t say something, even if you know it is true, you can at least pretend it isn’t real. That’s where Tom is. That’s where all of the so-called agnostics and atheists live.
The talk wrapped up shortly after that. I’d written down information on The Exodus Case and my blog for him. He said he’s a facts guy, so I told him I blog on facts, science, and that The Exodus Case is nothing but facts. We parted well, shaking hands and smiling.
Was I try to play one-upmanship with him by digging at him so hard, trying to win an argument? No! I saw a glimmer of unwilling belief, of guilt in his eyes. I wanted to take that barely smoking ember and fan it into something that would keep him up that night, thinking. I knew I wasn’t going to lead him to a come-to-Jesus moment. I just knew I had to find something that would stick, that he couldn’t easily get out of his head.
Guilt is built into us, God’s warning klaxon that we’re running afoul of our intended function. Guilt is maybe the last crack in the wall that God can still whisper through.
The anger I see in people who don’t believe, whether atheist or agnostic, tells me they believe. They are fighting the guilt of knowing they are in the wrong. They’re angry with God over something, and they think they are hurting Him through rejection. You know what? They are.
Worse yet, they are damning themselves. Maybe that makes them even angrier. I don’t know.
Everyone believes! We need to help them accept that!