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This is intended to be a question of general applicability, but in all honesty, I'm asking inspired by concrete YouTube channels that promote atheism, most notably, CosmicSkeptic and RationalityRules. These are examples of a special category of atheists that stand out for their remarkable understanding of philosophy, logical thinking, and skepticism, as well as their outstanding debating skills, even against renowned Christian apologists. Just to give you an idea, Alex O'Connor, the founder of CosmicSkeptic, has debated William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, Jonathan McLatchie, and several other defenders of the faith.

When it comes to atheists of this caliber, I see no possible way of evangelizing them through purely intellectual/argumentative means. Not even the best apologists have managed to do so. If I were asked my honest opinion, I would say that the only thing that can turn them around would be a supernatural, "road to Damascus" kind of experience. I see no other way.

But leaving my personal opinions aside, I would like to know if there are any denominations that provide official advice on how to evangelize highly intellectual and well-spoken atheists and skeptics. What recommendations do they give to win strong atheists for Christ? Or is this category of atheists simply a lost cause and the only thing that we can do is to throw up our hands, leave them alone and hope for the best?

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  • You've got more respect for these atheists than you do for the power of the gospel. – The Chaz 2.0 Mar 12 at 3:18
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    @TheChaz2.0 - are you saying this from personal experience? Have you dealt with strong atheists in the past? – Spirit Realm Investigator Mar 12 at 3:24
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    Excellent question, and one that deserves a considered and honest answer. I am inclined to agree with you that it takes "a supernatural experience", but since Christians are told to defend the faith given to them during the first century, then they should have a response. Off to dig up some material (could take a while)..... – Lesley Mar 12 at 8:16
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    The fool hath said in his heart, God is not. Answer not a fool according to his folly lest thou be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. [Psalm 14:1, Proverbs 26:4, Proverbs 26:5.] – Nigel J Mar 12 at 9:27
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    We do better to preach the Gospel by word and deed than to argue about it! Many denominations offer advice, but not in an official manner. I think you can find an answer with some individual preachers offering advice with this rather than a whole denomination. – Ken Graham Mar 12 at 17:06
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The only Protestant denomination I have found that gives unofficial advice about sharing the gospel with atheists or agnostics is the Free Church of Scotland. Professor Donald Macleod, Systematic Theology Professor at the Free Church of Scotland College, takes an uncompromising stand and has this to say:

  1. No Christian can accept peoples' claims to be atheists or agnostics. Such claims contradict what the Bible tells us about human nature. Wherever we go, Christians have to assume that there is a divinely implanted awareness of God in every human soul.
  1. Christians can take it for granted that basic religious concepts such as God, eternity, holiness, sin and judgment are meaningful to all men and women. To begin our evangelism by trying to get behind this framework (by setting out to prove that God exists) is to walk into a philosophical maze. Christians should not confuse knowledge of God (religion) with knowledge of how we know Him (epistemology). Unfortunately, on here a lot of Christians make that mistake.
  1. All Christian witness must start from the assumption that 'the seed of religion' exists in every human heart. All people have a sense of the holy, of the spiritual. Everyone has a feeling of dependence. All have God's law within their hearts. They all know that they are answerable to God. No matter how loudly they protest to the contrary! Christians are not called to instil these instincts into people. Our responsibility is to build on the foundation which God has already laid.

Source: 'Behold Your God' by Donald Macleod pp 26-27 (Christian Focus 1990); Systematic Theology Professor at the Free Church of Scotland College

During my search for relevant information, I found two quotes from Aiden W. Tozer which speaks to your comment that “the only thing that can turn [atheists] around would be a supernatural, "road to Damascus" kind of experience. I see no other way.”

“The Spirit never bears witness to an argument about Christ, but He never fails to witness to a proclamation of Christ crucified, dead and buried, and now ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high… Light is not enough. The inward operation of the Holy Spirit is necessary to saving faith. The gospel is light but only the Spirit can give sight.” (Born After Midnight)

What it means to be crucified [Romans 6:6 & Galatians 2:20]: Self is the opaque veil that hides the Face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. As well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of God in destruction before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross of judgment. (The Pursuit of God)

To answer your question: As far as I know, there is no Christian denomination that gives official advice on how to win atheists for Christ. I only know that Christians are urged to "speak the truth in love" to atheists and to all others, and not to get into arguments about words. That detracts from pointing people to "the simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3). Christians should care about atheists to the extent that they are prepared to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them, so that they might come to know the love of God. Christians can, and should, simply share with them the reality of Christ (their own testimony, which might not be believed but cannot be refuted) and use that to explain the gospel of Christ to them. The Holy Spirit will do the rest.

That’s because coming to faith in Christ is not a head-trip – it’s a heart transplant.

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Additional information and Resources for further investigation: There are many eminently qualified and intellectual Christians who have publicly debated with atheists. A now-dead former atheist and intellectual famously declared that he was the most reluctant of converts to Christianity (C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity”). The Reverend D. Robertson (Free Church of Scotland) has blog sites and books, such as ‘The Dawkins Letters – Challenging Atheist Myths’ (Christian Focus 2007). Professor John C. Lennox has had public debates with atheists Christopher Hitchens (now dead), Richard Dawkins, Laurence Kruss, Stephen Law and Peter Singer. Lennox has written a book 'Gunning for God: A Critique of the New Atheism' (Lion, 2011). John Stott - 'Why I Am a Christian,' (IVP, 2003) p. 87 (a riposte to Bertrand Russell's earlier work, 'Why I Am Not a Christian')

I have read the book ‘36 Arguments for the Existence of God’ by Rebecca Goldstein (First published in U.S.A. in 2010 by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House Inc.) The purpose of Goldstein’s book is to refute the existence of God. The following article presents the case for God’s existence: https://peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm

This article invites atheists to focus on truth, regardless of beliefs and clears up some misconceptions (the source is a Protestant evangelical organisation, not a denomination: https://www.gotquestions.org/atheist-Christian.html

The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/ is dealt with in this article: https://www.gotquestions.org/skeptics-annotated-Bible.html The purpose of the Got Questions article is to point out the fallacies behind the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible.

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As Ken Graham says, you are probably going to find much more in specific ministries than official church programs.

Within Catholicism, the Word on Fire ministry has focused to a significant degree on intellectual atheists. You can see here

https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/browse/topic/atheism/

for some resources from them on this topic.

However, when you say "I see no possible way of evangelizing them through purely intellectual/argumentative means." I think this is right. Very rarely, an atheist might change to belief in God through entirely abstract argumentation, but at that point, they still lack the experiential reference points that, IMHO, are more important. You're not really fighting the intellectual beliefs. Yet, I think removing intellectual obstacles to an ongoing relationship with God is usually going to be important, either way.

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I do not have this as an official denominational teaching from either the Baptist church I started out in or the Foursquare Church I currently attend but the grassroots teaching and practical lifestyle are generally as follows with the Baptists leaning heavier on doctrine and reason while Foursquare lifts interpersonal relationship to higher relevance.

By and large a relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ is not initially accessed intellectually (Matthew 16:17). Appreciation of it can grow in the rational mind once the mind has begun to be renewed beginning at the new birth but very few (if any) can be reasoned into the kingdom. This is because the sin nature lies beneath and empowers the intellect. Until slavery to sin is broken the intellect has no other master.

That is not to say that reason should not be employed in defense or proclamation of the Gospel. When the Apostle Paul would enter a town he would go first to the synagogue and reason with the Jews from the Scriptures (and I daresay he might have swayed some) and when he was in Athens at the Areopogus, he reasoned with the philosophers and skeptics of his day according to their proclivities. What he also did, however, was to be very careful about how he lived among them so that, when his preaching was done, his message would not be disqualified by his way of life. I don't know if it is fair to say that one avenue carries more power than another.

Then, too, there were "ships passing in the night" opportunities where only a brief interaction was afforded. Only from God's perspective can the effect of such interactions be properly weighted. Behind, under, and over any evangelization effort lies the power of prayer as we minister the Gospel of the God who saves.

But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,  for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. - Ephesians 5:13-17

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    To do justice to Paul, he also had a powerful card up his sleeve. 1 Cor 2:4-5 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.; Rom 15:19 by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. – Spirit Realm Investigator Mar 13 at 1:24
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    Yes he did. But he also said "Follow me as I follow Christ". – Mike Borden Mar 13 at 2:02

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