Thursday, January 17, 2013

Praying for Dishonest Skeptics

It is vital for Christians to re-engage young skeptics in honest discussion. While some young skeptics are genuinely searching for truth, others are just looking for someone to argue with. I often encounter individuals my friend Adrian Despres refers to as “dishonest skeptics.” He travels across the nation speaking to young adults about issues of faith. He has debated a number of self-proclaimed anti-God experts, including Dr. Terry Cousins from the University of South Carolina, a geology professor in Memphis, and a group of atheists in a series of televised debates in Traverse City, Michigan. Despres says that dishonest skeptics are people who claim to be looking for truth but actually have already made up their minds about what they believe. They are not really interested in learning the truth; they simply want to argue with anyone who will listen. Perhaps they like the attention, or perhaps they think they will win people to their cause through their aggressive actions. Despres calls them dishonest skeptics because they have lied to themselves about being open minded. Dishonest skeptics are narrow-minded and have closed themselves to learning and growing. Dishonest skeptics frequently accuse Christians of ignoring the facts, yet when Christians show them the facts, dishonest skeptics choose to ignore them.

One reason it can be frustrating to talk to dishonest skeptics is that they tend to change the rules mid-conversation. For example, they may say they cannot accept the Bible as truth for a certain reason, but when they are shown a logical way to resolve that particular conflict, instead of accepting the logical reason, they discard the logic and simply come up with another reason for not accepting the Bible. And if they are shown the answer to that objection, they just come up with yet another reason. The reality is that they have already decided they are not going to accept the Bible as truth, and no amount of logical discussion will convince them.

Some time ago I met a young man whom I will call Thomas Youngfellow. Thomas had grown up in a home that was very strict in its religious views but lacked emotional depth or warmth. His parents often kicked him out of the house for minor issues, while espousing belief in God at the same time. Thomas’s parents bounced from church to church, always finding fault with the pastor or other leaders in the church. It was not surprising when Thomas rebelled against his parents’ unhealthy religious expression and experienced what he calls a “de-conversion.” Though Thomas enrolled in college for a time, he did not complete his bachelor’s degree. He eventually moved back in with his parents because he was unable to find a job that could fully support him. He spends much of his time surfing the Internet for articles about how religion is evil and God is immoral. In one conversation with Thomas, I pointed out how he was simply replacing God’s opinions for his own opinions. He responded by saying if he had to choose his opinions or God’s opinions, he would go with his own ideas. He trusts himself more than he trusts God. That is simply not a logical conclusion for a young man in his situation. After all, he lacks a complete college education. He is underemployed. He is in a constant state of tension with his parents. He has alienated most of the friends. He is often depressed and angry.

Despite all this, he thinks his opinion is better than God’s, and no amount of logical discussion with him can move him from his position. Though Thomas tells himself he is a seeker of truth, many people who have discussed issues of faith with him have concluded that he is a dishonest skeptic. Thomas is just one example of tens of thousands of young people who think they are seeking truth when in reality they are simply ignoring it. My prayer for Thomas, and for so many others like him, is that the truth of the Gospel would penetrate the hard exterior of his heart.

Adapted from Dr. Dorsett’s book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, published by CrossBooks, a division of Lifeway Christian Resources.


  1. I join you in praying for "Thomas" today.

  2. I've never understood the point of arguing with atheists about faith. Faith is a gift, it doesn't come through debate.

  3. Don't waste energy arguing with an athiest, but do share the Gospel with him, the Gospel has the power to save the hardest heart.

  4. That was my point.