A favorite verse of many apologists or like-minded Christians is 1 Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (NKJV). This verse is a command from the Holy Spirit, through Peter, to have answers to give an inquiring and often hostile world when they question or attack the Christian faith. Christians do not have a blind faith but one that is based in historical reality. Ultimately, because Scripture was authored by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16) we can trust it to have accurately recorded both true history and theology. Many Christians today, as in the past, are taking the Holy Spirit’s command to “always be ready” seriously and are equipping themselves with answers. This is highly commendable.
However, it seems that while many Christians follow the first half of 1 Peter 3:15, they rarely follow the last half of this verse or the verse that follows it, “always be ready to give a defense…with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (1 Peter 3:15b-16). This portion of the Scripture is just as important to obey as the first half of the verse! Often when I am on social media, Youtube, or news articles I am saddened by reading things in the comments from professing Christians such as “Atheists are so dumb. You have to be pretty stupid to believe this stuff,” “the Bible says only fools don’t believe in God—well it’s pretty obvious that’s what this guy is,” or “I’m way too smart to believe I evolved from an apelike ancestor.” Comments like these are often tacked before or after good arguments for the existence of God or the truth of His Word. But using them completely destroys the good potentially done by the argument. No one is going to listen to someone who slings mud through name-calling or other ad hominem attacks. This is not the attitude of “meekness and fear” or, as the NIV puts it, “gentleness and respect” that is supposed to characterize our arguments. Our words and actions are supposed to be with such gentleness and respect that those who mock, taunt, and revile us will be ashamed of their actions because we refuse to stoop to the low standards of the world. When we resort to the very tactics that atheists and others use, we become just like them and that will not bring them to shame for their attitude. Rather, it will drive them away from the gospel because we look no different from the darkness in their own hearts. As Christians, we are supposed to be recognized by our love (John 13:35), not by our insults.
It’s important to remember that, except for the grace of God, we would be exactly like our atheist friends! We do not believe in Christ or biblical creation or the inerrant Word of God because of our intellect or because of our IQ. Rather, we believe in Christ because the Holy Spirit drew us to Christ and gave us spiritual understanding (1 Corinthians 1:13). Atheists are not “stupid” or “idiots” for believing in evolution and an old universe—they are blind! Satan works hard to put blinders in front of people to keep them from seeing the truth (2 Corinthians 4:4). Atheists are not just blinded; they also cannot use any of their senses because they are completely and utterly spiritually dead (Romans 8:6). They cannot understand the thoughts of God because they do not have the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). The only reason that we, as Sprit-filled Christians, see the overwhelmingly obvious evidence for our Creator all throughout creation is because we have God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13). We are new people, the old, dead man is gone, and the new person is alive in Christ and awakened to spiritual truth by the Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17). We must always remember this when we are on either the offense or defense.
As we work hard to prepare our minds for action (1 Peter 1:13) so that we can use every opportunity we are given (Ephesians 5:16) to preach the gospel and defend the faith, we should also be working to prepare our hearts as well. All of the knowledge in the world will be of no use in brandishing the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), if the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is not evident in our lives. Instead of using the weapons that the world uses (2 Corinthians 10:4) let us be renewed in our minds (Romans 12:2), putting off the deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11), and proclaiming the message of Christ with such gentleness and respect that our atheists friends are ashamed of their conduct and are driven to Christ.