4. USE LOGIC. Firm up your understanding of reasoning. Be aware of informal logical fallacies, so you can try to avoid them and recognize when others make them. I suggest a small book: The Ideas of the Great Philosophers by William S. and Mabel L. Sahakian (under $4, used on Amazon). “Part One—Epistemology [theory of knowledge] and Logic” covers material fallacies of reasoning and is very helpful. “Part Four—The Philosophy of Religion” is also helpful. Your attackers may ask you to prove things while not providing evidence themselves. Don’t get sucked into that. You might politely ask what evidence they have to support their opinions. Then be ready to put forth your evidence for your opinions.
5. KNOW YOUR STUFF. Find out how the Bible came together and why you can trust it. I have studied the New Testament origins and transmission, and I am convinced the NT is reliable. [I have not studied the origins and transmissions of the Old Testament in depth. Once I accepted the New Testament as reliable, it was enough for me that Jesus and his apostles quoted it.] I like anything by Bruce M. Metzger and Daniel B. Wallace—preeminent authorities on New Testament texts. Do not just Google your question and believe anything you watch or read. Metzger and Wallace really knew/know (respectively) their stuff.
This reminded me of the series that former atheist and now Christian blogging superstar Jennifer Fulwiler did with me back in 2008 (wow, was it that long ago?), collected under the tag “Approaching Atheists.” There’s some really good stuff in there, too, if I do say so myself.
One of my favorite bits from the Q&A’s with Jen on atheism:
Q: When you were an atheist, what could a Christian have said or done to change your mind, or at least get you started down that path, any sooner than you eventually did?
A: I think those are two ideas worth separating:
Is there anything anyone could have said?
The short answer is no. To believe in God is, ultimately, to believe in Love. You can’t prove to someone else that Love exists — it’s a discovery that requires both the mind and the heart.
Looking back, however, I am surprised at how rarely I heard reason-based cases for God’s existence. Though people are never converted through argument, I think it might have planted some small seed if Christians had focused more on explaining why they believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, what evidence supports the claim that the Resurrection happened, etc. A lot of the arguments I heard were along the lines of “God loves you,” which means nothing to someone who doesn’t believe in God.
Is there anything anyone could have done?
I think there is more hope on this one. When I encountered Christians who were truly Christ-like, it definitely got my attention. In some of the secular circles I hung out in there was a lot of snarkiness, bitterness and deep cynicism. When I would encounter Christians who were calm, peaceful, loving and sincere, it was like a breath of fresh air. You naturally want to find out more about people like that, to know what their secret is.