Christians, Non-Christians, And Reason
It’s always a little awkward when someone asks me what I do, because there’s not an easy answer. It would be terribly simple to say that I’m an engineer, or a software developer, or even a normal minister. People have categories for these things. No one has a category for “apologist” or usually even knows what that word means. So, I have to describe it to them.
Usually, I tell people that I lead a group on a college campus that talks about difficult questions like “Does God exist?,” “Why is there so much evil and suffering in the world?,” and “How can you trust in a book (Bible) written by men thousands of years ago?”
I also tell them that unlike most ministries, what I do does not assume that any particular view is true. We are looking for real answers to real questions. What we do is so unlike what happens in Christian groups, that we sometimes get mistaken for the Freethinkers (atheist, agnostic, secular, etc. group). We basically ask the same questions, we just have different conclusions. We actually have joint meetings with them from time to time to talk about things we disagree about, because we both like good conversations.
When I have conversations like this with people, they react one of two ways pretty much every time. If they are Christian, they respond one way; if they are non-Christian, they respond the other way.
When a non-Christian asks me what I do, and I tell them I’m in ministry, they usually get wide eyes like “Oh, no. Why me? Why did I ask that question? I will never open my mouth again.” Then we talk for a few minutes, and by the end, they’re like “Oh, that’s really cool!”
When a Christian asks me what I do, and I tell them I’m in ministry, they are usually congratulatory…at the beginning. However, by the time I’m done talking they get wide eyes and are like “I’m so happy you found something you like. I hope you have a great ministry…” and under their breath “…somewhere away from me.”
I have been having this same conversation with people for years, and 95% of the time, this is how it goes. The non-Christian starts by thinking “Oh, he’s one of those people” but ends thinking that what I do is really cool. The Christian is the opposite. He starts by thinking good things about me because I’m in ministry, but when I explain what I do, suddenly I become a crazy person.
Why is it that because I ask whether Christianity is actually true or not that I am a crazy person? What is it that is so offensive to believers about trying to find out whether we should believe or not? Don’t they believe that Christianity is actually true? In that case, my questions shouldn't bother them. More importantly, though, wouldn’t they want to know if it weren’t true?
By and large, I have found that people outside of church are far more interested in having conversations that involve reason and evidence. Church people, as a general rule, do not like these conversations. I wonder which of the two attitudes Jesus would approve of.