by Bill Nugent
The rhetoric between atheists and Christians has become increasingly heated in recent years. In spite of this, I will show you how atheists secretly agree with an important part of the Christian viewpoint. I will also show how we can build from this common ground and win atheists over to the Christian faith.
Actually I would never claim credit for finding this common ground between atheists and Christians. Christian scholars and theologians have studied this fact for many years and Christian debaters have used it with great success. Let’s take a look at this common ground.
This common ground has to do with the presuppositions (basic assumptions) that both Christians and atheists make when entering an argument. A presupposition is an a priori assumption oraxiom that acts as the starting point of an argument on any issue.
Early 20th century Christian theologians Abraham Kuyper and Cornelius Van Til claimed that all people, whether they be atheist or Christian, have the same presupposition or starting point on any issue. All debaters, activists, arguers, professors, scholars and theologians all share one vitally important presupposition. This presupposition, I will soon show, is actually part of the Christian worldview. This presupposition makes no sense at all in an atheist worldview yet atheists believe it whether or not they will verbally admit it.
This common ground, this axiom that we all share is that human life is sacred. Are you surprised? To prove this just consider the time, talent and treasure that the atheist activists put into their books, lectures and debate emails. Look at the way secular people fight racism, poverty and social injustice. If atheists really believe that human life is just animal life why would they bother? If atheists really believe that human beings are just atoms in motion, that human beings are just hairless apes that evolved from hairy apes that in turn evolved from slime why bother? Deep down the atheist knows that human life is above animal life and that human life is special in a way that can be called sacred!
The secular, atheist, materialistic worldview has no place for the sacred. The atheist is essentially borrowing the concept of the sacred from the Christian worldview and this is crucial. It essentially means that the atheist in one sense is trying to be a good Christian. The atheist is trying to save humanity!
The Bible in Romans 1:18 says that ungodly men “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” In other words ungodly people know the truth and subconsciously agree with the Christian worldview but suppress it. They claim to be atheists yet their actions in trying to save humanity show that they believe that human life is sacred.
How does an atheist know that human life is sacred? The Bible in Romans 2:14-15 speaks about the conscience of every human being. It says that God’s law is written on our hearts. Their consciences show them what is right and wrong. The conscience has been called God’s second book. Another Bible verse that tells this truth is Ecclesiastes 3:11 which says that God has “set eternity in their heart.” Every human being knows he or she will live forever. Everyone knows that human life is eternal and sacred. Human life is sacred because human beings are created in God’s image. Even the atheists implicitly, secretly believe this.
So here we have another proof of the truth of the Bible. The very zealous activity of the atheist shows the fact that the law of God, including the concept of the sacredness of human life, is written on the heart of the atheist. The atheist himself is living, breathing proof of the truth of Romans 2:14-15 and Ecclesiastes. 3:11!
So in addition to the miracles, the thousands of predictive prophecies and their fulfillments, the fact that Jesus came in fulfillment of over 300 prophecies, the timeless wisdom of the Bible and the fruit of the Bible in bringing about social reform, in addition to all this the atheist himself is proof of the Bible!
Furthermore, as a practical matter, when debating an atheist simply point out that he already believes in the sacredness of human life. This form of argumentation is calledpresuppositionalism. One great presuppositionalist debater was Greg Bahnsen. His debate performances were highly persuasive and instructional to academic and philosophically oriented people.
In witnessing to an atheist you can use presuppositional strategy to convince the atheist that he already believes part of the Bible’s message. This will shock the atheist and it will cause him to reexamine his position. You can build from this to convince the atheist to believe the rest of the Christian worldview.