“Lord, please let the atheists be so touched by the love of Christians tomorrow that they are bewildered,” we prayed, anticipating the events of the following day.
We were volunteering at the Ark Encounter on our way home from the Answers in Genesis NEA gospel outreach in Washington D.C.
A surprise opportunity arose to join Eric Hovind and some other friends to talk with the protesters, and to bring them lunch.
When we told one of the other volunteers that we would be visiting with a group of protesters, she lit up. “Let’s pray for them right now!” she exclaimed. Her face reflected the feelings of us all. How beautiful that God was bringing a whole group of atheists right to our “doorstep,” so that we could share the love and truth of Christ with them.
Eric Hovind did a great job spear-heading this ministry effort to the protesters. He wrote a comprehensive report of the whole day here.
Some of the protestors were pretty angry about the Ark. However, many of them were very willing to have conversations with us.
Three different atheists told Sarah that they really enjoyed their conversation with her, and thanked her for talking with them.
One atheist actually blogged about the conversation she had with a Creation Museum staff member named Kendyl. The atheist wrote, “I hadn’t planned on talking to any of the Christians there, but found myself engaged in a couple of one-on-one, deep conversations with them anyway. They were calm, meaningful discussions about faith that I actually quite enjoyed. During one of the conversations I and the girl I was talking to were both tearing up talking about our experiences. It was a very touching moment and one I will not forget. The thing I often remind myself of is that we’re all just humans trying to figure out the world around us. We shared our disagreements and debated a few issues, but sometimes you just have to push all the divisive stuff to the side and connect with someone on a deeper level. We did that and it was beautiful.”
Unfortunately, not all of the protesters were as willing to converse. In fact, when the Christians first arrived, the atheist leaders were telling their group not to speak to us at all. Praise God, He had different plans for them. 🙂
They weren’t too excited about the food we brought for them. They put these warning notices on them.
Nickie and I talked with these ladies for about two hours. Our goal was simply to listen and understand what made them so upset that they would come and protest. They had much to say, especially about the way religions have affected women’s rights.
After about 45 minutes of discussion, a guy who had been listening in, piped up, “Do you guys mind if I jump in, as a male hearing this talk?”
“Seriously, it’s not very often I get to hear females talking about female issues that involve religion.”
“Yep!” she said.
He pulled over his lawn chair, and then looked over at Nickie and me to make introductions.
“I’m assuming, Christians?” he asked politely.
“Yes,” we smiled.
“Uh, conservative? Like, super conservative?”
“We’re volunteering for the Ark encounter,” I said, smiling.
“Oh! Well then that explains it,” he said.
His big question was, “How do you reconcile being a female and having to read the Bible?”
If only he would have given us the opportunity to answer!
It was clear that these atheists wanted to sit on the judgement seat above God and judge Him. This guy, (I’ll just call him “Jay”) told us, “If God knocks on my door tomorrow … I will tell Him, ‘I’m not praising you, I’m not getting down and worshiping you, I’m not going to thank you, we’re going to sit at my dining room table and you’re going to sit here and answer every &$%*!@#$! question that I have. And I still may not worship you. I’ll respect that you’re here now … way to show up … ‘bout time!”
I share his disrespectful words to show the attitude that many of them had towards God. They are not merely atheists, but anti-theists. Many of the people that came to protest were extreme anti-theists, not your average atheist that you meet every day. Most atheists I’ve encountered over the years aren’t as angry as some of these were.
It was sad to hear how Jay became an atheist. He told us that he was confirmed a Lutheran, but once he had his second child, he began thinking, “Okay, I’m a parent, I have to start laying the groundwork for my kids. Are we religious?”
Jay began getting advice from people about religions. One guy advised him, “Look at the different faiths out there, and pick your holy book of choice. Then get away from the cheerleaders of it (pastors, priests, activists) and read it for yourself from front to back.”
At this point I was becoming very interested in Jay’s story!
He continued, “I couldn’t even get through the first page of Genesis without thinking, ‘what in the @&)%*$%# is this about? On the 4th day, God created light? Well how in the *#%$!(@& did the first 3 days happen?’ … And then I jumped on the Internet and started typing … trying to get the other side of it.”
(I guess he forfeited the advice of his friend, who said to read it for yourself before getting others’ opinions!)
I asked him, “Don’t you think you should have read the whole Bible before you came to that conclusion? Don’t you think that’s a little unfair to stop right there?”
“Not when you understand how the Bible came to be,” he said. “The Bible is not one consistent story from start to finish. It just a bunch of jumbled whatever. Did you know there’s THREE different versions of the resurrection story in the Bible?”
Jay claimed that coming up with a consistent resurrection story can’t be done.
“But I’ve studied this myself!” I told him, “And Tim Chaffey over there in the white cap wrote an article on this — I could send it to you!”
“It can’t be done,” he repeated.
“It CAN be done. I’ll explain it to you!” I offered excitedly.
Another lady, entertained, commented, “I just have to say, you guys are so cute. I love people.”
I am not sure that “cute” was the most complimentary thing she could have said at the moment, but whatever. Haha.
And regarding the issue of light before day four, there are many easy answers to that question. Here’s one by ICR, for example. Genesis 1:3 says that on the first day “God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. So Jay was confused when he said on the fourth day “God created light”. The Bible says on the fourth day God created the sun, moon and stars.
Though Jay hadn’t read the Bible, it was obvious that he had been reading all kinds of things ABOUT the Bible. Atheists like Jay love to pull out obscure verses from Leviticus to act like they know the Bible really well, hoping to stump Christians. But in reality, they usually don’t actually know the Bible — they just go to atheist blogs or watch debates where they acquire “ammunition” to use against Christians. (It’s not really ammunition because their objections have simple answers, but often they don’t actually want answers. Rather they “suppress the truth” as Romans 1:18-22 explains. 🙁 )
For example, Jay claimed the Bible is extremely immoral because of the account of Lot offering his daughters to the evil townsmen. He felt that because that event was in the Bible, the Bible must be condoning Lot’s behavior.
Nickie and I explained that Lot’s actions are not lifted up as godly in that account! The Bible gives all kinds of examples of evil… and it is not condoning it, it is simply showing the depravity of men’s hearts.
But Jay wasn’t satisfied with our answer. He asked scornfully, “Does it bother you that your God in that book didn’t jump out of the sky and condemn it (Lot’s actions)?”
He continued, “The moral compass wasn’t there. Why wouldn’t God jump in at that moment and intervene? He intervened and turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt. Why did he just sit on the sidelines in this part of the story [when Lot was about to offer his daughters to the townspeople]?”
“But He didn’t!” Nickie replied. “Did you read the rest of the story? The angels inflicted the townsmen with blindness.”
Although Jay wasn’t really listening and didn’t really care, I was grateful for Nickie’s quickness to catch and correct his misunderstanding of the history recorded in Genesis 19. Either Jay was lying or hadn’t really read the whole account himself. The truth is that God DID intervene to protect Lot and his family from the evil men outside. In fact, God did it by the personal visit of an angelic team who powerfully blinded the enemies! How is that “not intervening” ?
You see, these atheists act like they have dozens of great arguments against the Bible, but their arguments crumble when evaluated.
“Can I ask you ‘how far creationist’ you are on the scale? Like do you believe humans hung out with dinosaurs?” Jay asked me.
“Yeah, we believe God created dinosaurs on day six,” I said.
“So you literally think that humans hung out with dinosaurs?”
“Why do we find dinosaur bones with blood vessels in them?” I asked.
“Is it to trick us?” he asked.
“It wasn’t found by [Creationists],” I replied, “it was found by Mary Schweitzer who doesn’t even believe in young earth creationism, but she found this tissue and these blood vessels in these dinosaur bones and then did the experiment again and again…”
“In which facilities? Christian facilities? Independent?” Jay asked, and then immediately switched the topic to kangaroos.
I was thrilled that Tim Chaffey could come and join our conversation. He responded to each of their objections (which seemed endless) with clear and articulate answers.
One guy had a question about how the water could have covered the planet.
“You’re assuming Mt Everest was there [at the time of the flood],” Tim replied.
“Yes, because geologically, Mt. Everest, even though it is a young mountain, is still very old,” the guy said.
“It’s covered with sea shells,” Tim replied.
This led into a discussion about how the sea shells got there.
At one point Jay said to Tim, “Why would one planet in this galaxy be *so important* to a creator?
“Well,” Tim began…
“I’m not looking for an answer,” Jay said.
“Well I’m going to give you an answer,” Tim said, seizing the opportunity to answer that good question, “Because if this is where He creates life — and in the Bible the earth is made before the sun, moon and stars — ”
“Which doesn’t make any sense at all,” Jay said.
“I think it makes perfect sense, if He wants to do it that way,” Tim replied.
[I found it interesting that Tim, without knowing my previous conversation with Jay, brought up the VERY TOPIC that had been the big turn off for Jay — the fact that God made the sun, moon, and stars, on day four.]
Tim continued to explain that God cared about this planet because this was where He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins.
“We really appreciate you talking with us” we told Jay, as things were winding down and we had taken friendly pictures together and exchanged contact info.
“Oh this is wonderful,” he replied.
We both agreed that talking in person is better than online debates.
“[Online] it just turns into a shouting match … My caps lock is louder than your caps lock!” Jay joked.
Meanwhile, my dad, Sarah, Haley, and our other friends were having good conversations too. Praise the Lord.
The great news was that twenty-one of the protestors agreed to go on a guided tour of the Ark — guided by Tim Chaffey who is the content manager for the Ark (he wrote the signage). He blogged about the day here. The Ark Encounter also blogged about it here.
Eric Hovind, giving a great explanation about geology and the flood.
The atheists even agreed to do a 10 minute Q and A time with Tim Chaffey at the end of the personal tour.
Do you notice how intent the look on their faces are? They aren’t mocking anymore. They’re listening respectfully. Praise God that many of these atheists — who began the day by chanting at the exit ramp — ended the day as our friends!
A beautiful sunset closed that first long day. Wow, so much had happened, and that was just opening day! What else is the Lord going to do at the Ark Encounter? How else will He use it as a beacon for the gospel? Perhaps that will depend on how much we are praying towards that end!
The next day, some of the leaders of the atheist protest came back! Our friend, Tony Ramsek, invited them into the IT office for lunch. They talked for several hours about Creation Science and more importantly the person and work of Jesus Christ!
Tony shares interesting details about his interactions with the atheists in his presentation called “Beginning in the Beginning: The Power of Creation Evangelism” given at our recent Witnessing Workshop (blog post coming soon!).
Witnessing Workshop – Beginning in the Beginning: The Power of Creation Evangelism from Tony Ramsek on Vimeo.
Praise the Lord, who thrills our hearts by giving us the opportunity to be His hands and lips, reaching out to those He loves.