A letter to agnostics, skeptics, and atheists

by Neil Shenvi

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” -1 Cor. 2:2

I don’t know whether I know you personally and invited you to this site, or whether you have been brought here through the wonder of Google, Bing, or Ask Jeeves (Ask Jeeves?). But whoever you are, I would like to welcome you here. I have been a Christian for almost ten years, but only became interested in apologetics after having my faith challenged on a blog run by an agnostic friend. Although reading the work of the New Atheists like Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris has certainly been difficult at times, I can honestly say that my investigations have only served to strengthen my faith in Jesus Christ. My hope is that on this site, you will similarly be challenged to question your presuppostions, to reexamine your arguments, and ultimately to investigate the claims made almost two thousands years ago by a a poor, itinerant teacher from Nazareth.

In this short letter, I’d like to do a few things to clear a path for you. I want to offer you first an apology and second a challenge.

In reading the work of the Neoatheists, and in talking to many agnostics and skeptics, I’ve found that very few were raised in some kind of religious vacuum. Very few of them were the children of free-thinking, deeply skeptical parents. Instead, almost all of them grew up in families with at least some religious beliefs and practices. Consequently, their atheism does not derive purely from intellectual considerations, but is often mingled with deep personal disappointments, tragedies, and betrayals. Many of them were raised in religious traditions which looked down on any kind of inquiry, which were openly hostile to questions, and which were radically un-reflective about their own beliefs. Others were appalled by the hypocrisy they witnessed in the church. They saw people who were living lives that were utterly opposed to their professed beliefs. Finally, some were personally injured by a professing believer, whether a father or mother, a pastor, or a close friend. To all of them and to all of you, I want to apologize. It is indeed a scandal and a tragedy the way that many of you have been treated. It is not right. If those who have wronged you have not sought your forgiveness, I hope that I can do so partially in their stead.

At this point, it is common for a Christian apologist to disavow the faith of those who have behaved wickedly and claim that true Christians would never do such things. However, I can’t do this. Any look at the history of the church, or my own personal history, shows numerous acts of which I am rightfully ashamed. Does this mean I am not a Christian? No. It means that I am a radically sinful human being who needs equally radical forgiveness and transformation.

I do not want to minimize the objective, external changes that happen when someone becomes a Christian. I can personally testify (as can some of my close friends) that when I put my faith in Jesus Christ, my whole life was radically transformed; I became more loving, more joyful, more patient, and more faithful than I had been. If these characteristics are not present in our lives at all, then we should seriously consider whether we have truly put our trust in Jesus in the first place. At the same time, when I became a Christian, I became much more aware of my own tendency to selfishness, immorality, idolatry, pride, and every kind of wickedness. Yes, Christians do see objective changes in their lives. But a Christian always falls desperately short of the standard to which God calls them…

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A letter to agnostics, skeptics, and atheists

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