In this eight-minute exchange with Bill Maher, conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat is by no means theologically or stylistically perfect. Nonetheless, his humble and winsome defense of the Christian faith in a rather hostile setting bears watching. What I’ve written below is not a summary of the Maher-Douthat dialogue but three, more general “take-aways”:
1 — To advance the claims of Christianity you must know the Word of God. The Bible’s message is simple but not simplistic. There are nuances for which skeptics will demand an explanation. In discussing them, believers must be diligent, not dismissive . . . “rightly dividing” the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15).
2 — When you know the Word of God, you need not fear engaging in conversation about it. You should, in fact, relish opportunities to present the gospel and refine your understanding of its message. Speaking (coherently) requires thinking. So you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn through the process of searching for the words to explain the wonder of grace and truth and the reason for the hope we have. When you know the Word of God, the charges that atheists fire your way actually strengthen your faith–much like a vaccine strengthens one’s immunity to a disease. Consider Bill Maher’s snide questions to Douthat. They set up well-worn arguments that at once garble and oversimplify what the Bible teaches and what most Christians believe. Contrast Maher’s flippant jabs for the purposes of laughter with Douthat’s genuine attempts to demystify and help his inquisitor understand. Which approach strikes you as more compelling?
3 — Finally, the inexhaustible arrogance of atheists like Bill Maher–though worthy of condemnation–should really elicit our sympathy.
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”–Colossians:4:6