Each year, my family and I make the trek northward to Wrightsville Beach N.C. for our annual family vacation. We know the best places to eat, the places to hang-out during the day, the best beach spots, and we also enjoy the large running community that seems to be constantly moving all hours of the day and night! However, this year as we were hanging out on the beach, we decided to setup our tent and chairs on the north end of the beach where the ocean and the channel all come together creating a mixture of surf, sand, pools of water, and a calm flowing stream. This is a great place for the kids to play and one that provides several options for family recreation.
As we were setting up the tent on the first day with our friends who had joined us for vacation, we noticed a strange collage of shells, wooden platform, and a mailbox just behind us next to the sand dunes. After getting things setup, we walked over and looked at this strange assortment of shells, and it turned out to be a mailbox that read, “Leave A Note To God.” So, as you can imagine, I opened the box and inside the mailbox were hundreds of letters to God. As I scanned the piles of shells surrounding the box I saw that many people had left letters to God on the shells. So, like any curious person would do, I took out a few letters and read them. Some seemed more serious than others, but for the most part, they were sincere prayers that people had walked down the beach and left to God in a box.
On the second day, we setup the tents closer to the mailbox shrine, and as we were putting our things down, it dawned on me that it would be a great place to talk to people about God. The day prior a steady stream of people had been walking up to the mailbox throughout the day, so as I was preparing the tent the first man of the day walked up and spoke to us as he approached the mailbox. He said, “I guess you like the shrine?” I said, “Well, I guess so, but if I want to talk to God, I could just speak to Him and He would hear me without putting my letter in the box.” He responded, “Well, as I see it – God is a poor listener.” From that point – I knew that I was going to have a clear opportunity to speak with this man about the gospel. So, I stopped my construction of the tent and approached the mailbox.
He let me know very quickly that he was an Atheist. Sometimes you find an Atheist on the college campus or lurking on an internet website, but this time I had come into contact with an Atheist on the beach! I really enjoy talking to Atheists because most of them are “white belt” Atheists who have merely bought into a particular position based on some website or book that claims the Bible is not trustworthy and that we are the result of a “big bang” and billions of years of chance. It’s actually refreshing to talk to an Atheist on the beach under a bright sun, listening to the rolling waves, and standing on warm sand rather than through this blog or between the shelves at the local bookstore which often happens in my life.
One way that I approach conversations with Atheists is by asking questions. I never walk up and introduce myself as a Baptist preacher. That usually kills the conversation rather quickly. So, I usually begin with simple easy non-intrusive questions that lead to more complex questions. As I started with this man on the beach, I asked him how he could deny the existence of God as the designer of our marvelous creation that surrounds us? His response, “Well, I explain all of the creation with the ‘Big Bang.'” I responded, “How do you explain what the Bible says in Genesis 1 about God creating the world?” I was fairly sure he would take the bait and run to discredit the Bible, and I was right. However, he didn’t go as far as I would have liked. He responded, “Well, the Bible is one of many religious documents that exists presenting a particular view of ‘God.'” I pushed him a bit further by asking, “Sir, wasn’t the Bible written over a long period of time – like 1,500 years by about 40 different authors who all come together in their presentation of God without contradictions?” His response was immediate, “Without contradictions? The Bible has many contradictions.” I tried not to show any emotion, but I was excited that he had finally arrived at this point. So I then asked one simple question, “Can you name one of the many contradictions?” His response, “Well, how about the birth place of Jesus?” I responded, “Bethlehem?” He said, “Yea, but everyone knows that Jesus was called, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.'” After I explained that I was born in Atlanta but grew up in Douglasville – I could be known as Josh of Douglasville while having a true history of being born in Atlanta – I asked him another question. I asked, “Can you point out any other contradiction in the Bible?” He responded by saying, “Well, I was reading a book by Christopher Hitchens and he provided some contradictions but I can’t remember them right on the spot.” Just as I expected, this man was a self proclaiming Atheist who has been persuaded by the ideologies of some man’s book.
That is the normal pattern of conversation that I typically have with Atheists and it seems to always prove Psalm 14:1. They want to discredit the Bible, and they must defeat it in order to be a true Atheist. However, in the end, the Bible cannot be defeated by any self professing Atheist. While they may laugh at the record of Jonah and claim that nobody can be swallowed by a fish or scoff at the record of Genesis and claim that the world cannot be flooded in only 40 days, the Bible has a greater mountain that the Atheist must climb! The greatest infallible proof that the Bible is true is not based on Jonah or Genesis or even the life of the Apostle Paul. The greatest proof is found in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. That is the large pink elephant that stands in every science laboratory and positions itself in the center of every college university on planet earth. The resurrection of Christ is the centerpiece of Christianity and proves that the Bible is true! Therefore, the Atheist on the beach and the “Four Horseman” of the modern Atheist movement must do more than talk of a “Big Bang” and evolution. They must disprove the resurrection of Christ in order to rightly discredit the Bible. For, if God the Father raised up God the Son from the dead – He can also cause a man to be swallowed by a fish, the world to be flooded in 40 days, and time to stand still in Joshua. The God who has revealed Himself in the pages of the Bible has miraculously invaded time, space, and our personal lives throughout history. He has done it through the birth of His Son, His crucifixion, and His resurrection. The Atheist can stick his head in the sand and pretend that God isn’t out there – but when he opens his eyes it becomes profoundly evident that God exists.
I pray that God will open the eyes of the man on the beach with the truth of the gospel. Why do I pray that God will open his eyes with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Because Thomas Watson once said, “He that doth not believe that there is a God, is more vile than a devil. To deny there is a God, is a sort of atheism that is not to be found in hell.”1 A man may claim to be an Atheist on the beach, but he will not be an Atheist in hell. As he walked away, I said, “Sir, the God who has revealed Himself in the pages of the Bible sent His Son to die for me. I am a sinner, I make mistakes, and I stand in need of salvation. The only way that I can be forgiven is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Consider the facts that I have presented to you today and consider the reality of God as you view His creation.” May God be pleased to open the eyes of the blind as they see God through the hearing of the gospel of King Jesus!
2 Corinthians 4:3-4 – And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
John MacArthur writes, “As Christians we accept one foundational truth – God – and everything else makes sense. An atheist denies God and has to accept incredible explanations for everything else. It takes more faith to deny God than to believe in Him.”2
Pastor Josh Buice
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1. A Puritan Golden Treasury, compiled by I.D.E. Thomas, by permission of Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA. 2000, p. 28.
2. The Ultimate Priority, Moody Press, 1983, p. 38.