“And as they did not study to have knowledge of God, God delivered them to a worthless mind to do what is not lawful, being filled with all kinds of unrighteousness, wickedness, greediness, and evil. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and meanness. They are gossipers, slanderers, and haters of God. They are insolent, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, and disobeyers of parents. They are without understanding, covenant breakers, without affections, and without mercy. They know the decrees of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do them, but also approve of those who do them.”
In discussions of Christian worldview and various forms of non-Christian thought, we usually focus on the two categories of agnosticism and atheism. In this author’s manner of thinking, addressing the first is mostly a matter of convincing a person to take time from their busy schedule to examine the question. In terms of the latter, it is a matter of convincing the person to examine the question on the basis of logic, whether that be through logical proofs or through the evidence in the world around us which points to God. In both cases, it seems to me, that they suffer from the presupposition that God is either not worth knowing or that he is not able to be known.
Yet, there are other categories by which those who are against Christian thought may be classified. One of which is “anti-theism.” This is not simply a question of whether God can or cannot be known, but this is a view that the knowledge of God is harmful to both individuals and to society. Such a view is more than a rejection of the knowledge of God; it is a rejection of those who acknowledge God, and there is a difference.
For instance, in the west, the majority of children are raised with the belief that a large, rotund, sprite from the North Pole sneaks into their home (though a chimney or otherwise) to deliver gifts on the night of December 24th. Were one simply agnostic to this view, they might simply say, “to each their own.” Were one in rejection of this view, one might simply say, “That is a foolish notion” and then shake their head at the silliness of others while not practicing the tradition. Yet, for the “Anti-SantaClausian,” the practice would not only be viewed as wrong, but harmful to practice. Such parents would not only train their children up that Santa Clause was a myth, but would actively encourage other parents to do the same. Indeed, they might even look down on other parents for lying to their children at least once a year, for if they will lie on this matter, what other matters will they lie about?
In this passage from Romans 1, Paul is addressing a wide variety of character traits that are manifested in individuals and societies that reject the worship of the One True God. In other words, they will not study or evaluate the arguments for the existence of God (both atheism and agnosticism fall into this category), but in refusing to do so, God has punished them by giving them over to a clouded mind and debased passions. They know the Law of God, but refuse to obey it.
Over the years, there has been a rise in atheism, not just in terms of a philosophical position, but in terms of those who actively consider theism in any form to be harmful. The late Anthony Flew described such people essentially as those who evangelize atheism (as if atheism could ever be labeled as “good news”). Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens are examples of those who hold such a view. They have made a study of the Bible (though usually from atheistic presuppositions) and they have rejected it (along with the Q’ran, the various Buddhist texts, etc…). Further, they see the presence of those with a theistic worldview as one that hinders the development of society.
The point is that the normal approaches of apologetics are not well suited for those who hold to an anti-theistic worldview. They are not interested in examining the evidence on the basis of the evidence itself nor are they interested in having a rational dialogue about the reasonableness of theistic claims. They are militantly against these things. For an anti-theist, a balanced dialogue about the theist’s claims is as irrational as a balanced dialogue over whether Santa, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth-fairy exists. It is a waste of time and energy.
My proposition is that apologetics training needs to be re-evaluated in light of the presence of the anti-theist. While I am certainly not advocating the elimination of the many tools of apologetics that are available to us today, I think that we need to improve the toolbox. As we are in a spiritual war, perhaps a better analogy is that we need to improve our apologetics arsenal in light of anti-theism. Too often, we equip our children with little more than a pellet gun when they are sent onto the battlefield of a thoroughly anti-religious, anti-Christian, and anti-theistic world.