As Answers in Genesis conducts ministry all over the world, it is essential that we reflect on important occurrences within the cultures to which we desire to deliver AiG’s message about the authority of God’s word and the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This week we direct our focus to Australia.
In February 2015, a group of non-religious advocates, the Sydney Atheists, put up a large billboard which reads, “Have you escaped religion? We have!” According to a report on news.com.au, the billboard’s message was aimed “to provoke thought.”* In his interview with news.com.au, the president of Sydney Atheists, Steve Marton, maintained that religious teaching is characterized by fallacious nonsense and contradiction. He also accused organized religion of being agenda-driven, with “an end goal that usually involves power and money.” He emphasized the need for atheist groups such as Sydney Atheists to serve as a sort of “oasis” for like-minded people who have rejected religious commitment.
What is supremely and sadly ironic about this is that Steve Marton and those who share his perspective have not really escaped religion. Rather, they have essentially traded in one faith commitment for another faith commitment. They have exchanged belief in God for a belief in materialism, and rejected the authority of God’s Word in order to rely on their own (finite and flawed) authority. The Scriptures anticipated this kind of sinful mentality. As Paul says in Romans 1:21–22, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (NASB). This echoes David’s statement in Psalm 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (NASB).
Given what the Scriptures say, Christians really ought not to be surprised about the way that atheists view religion. In fact, since the entrance of sin into God’s creation there has always been an allure to set aside the authority of His Word in favor of man’s own supposed authority (note that in Genesis 3 the woman’s sin began with the rejection of God’s Word). Denying God’s very existence just makes it all that much easier (and, presumably, justifiable) to do so. Nevertheless, the question remains, How should the Christian respond? I would like to set forth a few points for consideration.
(1) We as Christians need to equip ourselves to be able to address the objections leveled against the Christian faith by unbelievers. Marton charges that Christianity is agenda-driven and dependent upon a document (the Bible) that is full of contradictions. We need to be able to show, based upon a proper interpretation of Scripture and a consistent (godly) Christian testimony, that this is an invalid accusation. Are we doing all we can to make sure that we are able to do this?
(2) We as Christians need to develop a proper perspective about those who deny the existence of the biblical God. On the one hand, they stand opposed to us in our presentation of the truth of God’s Word and the gospel it contains. But on the other hand, they represent the mission field. Sometimes we adopt too much of an “us versus them” mentality and treat atheists (and others whose beliefs do not conform to biblical truth) as enemies with whom we are at war (contra Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood . . .”) We need to view our atheist friends as those who desperately need for us to lovingly share with them the good news of Christ crucified for our sins and risen from the dead. Are we taking pains to do this as opportunities arise?
(3) We as Christians need to remember to pray for people who oppose the truth of the Word of God. Ultimately, it is only God who can change the heart of sinful man (cf. Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 32:39–40). As Answers in Genesis continues to minister around the world, we never want to forget to pray for the many people that our message will reach.
*James Law, “‘Have you Escaped Religion? We Have!’ The Billboard that Will Make Christians Cross,” News Limited, February 6, 2015, http://mobile.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/have-you-escaped-religion-we-have-the-billboard-that-will-make-christians-cross/story-fniym3t1-1227210471125.