A third point made by my atheistic visitor, see previous posts here and here, was, “Why do you need faith? And then why do you need faith to support that faith?”

Putting the question like that makes it sound like I am deficient in someway as a person, as if I am so weak and inadequate that I “need” faith to help me survive life. This raises a couple of issues. Why does our culture glorify self-sufficiency, independence and the person who is completely self-reliant but is often thoroughly selfish? Other cultures value community, interdependence and selflessness and surely these are better values. Needing faith is not necessarily a negative characteristic.

Furthermore my Christian faith is a most reasonable explanation of the world. It explains how the world came to be, why people are the way they are – at times incredible loving and self-sacrificing and other times completely selfish and destructive. It explains why there is beauty; why justice is worth fighting for; and the sense of right and wrong that humans have but animals don’t. My Christian faith makes sense of suffering and evil because it explains their temporary presence on earth. My faith explains much to me and the further I investigate the more sense it makes. So in a way my faith does add to my faith.

However faith is not just accepting a lot of doctrines as truth. Nor does satisfactorily answering a person’s intellectual questions about faith mean they will become a Christian. True faith makes a response. If I believed my house was on fire but didn’t leave, it is doubtful that I really believed my house was on fire. Likewise if we say we believe in God and the Bible but don’t respond by surrendering our lives to God then we don’t really believe.

Atheists often claim that are atheists because of intellectual reasons but there are at least two other reasons why people believe or don’t believe (which I have mentioned previously but are worth repeating).

There are social reasons. People tend to accept the beliefs of people they already like and trust. Coming into contact with a Christian community will convince some to become a Christian because they see something about their lives and the way they live that is appealing. Alternatively people who have atheistic friends may not have the courage to disagree with this circle of friends. Unfortunately another possibility is that they have only met legalistic, self-righteous Christians and want nothing to do with them.

There are also personal reasons. People believe things that resonate with their own experience or soul. People may sense their personal need of God, perhaps because they want forgiveness, acceptance, love etc. Alternatively people may simply not like the claims of the gospel. It may challenge their independence and self-sufficiency so they may not want to believe regardless of the weight of the evidence.

It is unlikely I will convince my atheistic visitor to come to faith not because Christianity isn’t a reasonable and rational faith but rather because he is not open to seriously examining the Christian faith. Sadly he comes to the discussion with his mind already made up.