Atheist Christopher Hitchens posted a commentary in the "On Faith" section of the Washington Post's website yesterday. Not surprisingly, there was nothing really new that he said in his post, which railed against religion. However, it hit me while I was reading it that I also had nothing new to offer in response. King Solomon said in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible that there is nothing new under the sun. How true he was.
The more I read about atheist comments against religion, it often sounds like a broken record. The opposite is also true, as I have not heard many new responses/defenses to religion. Throughout my life, I have succeeded in getting my car stuck in sand and snow on many occasions. As I spin my wheels, I only managed to dig my tires in deeper. I feel like this is what we are doing when we (people of faith) go back an forth with atheists debating God and religion. I don't feel that we should not lovingly disagree in a respectful manner. But the back and forth for the sake of debate can be useless.
An older Christian once told me that there are occasions where it is wise not to continue to debate someone. When you have responded to every question they pose, and yet they still remain obstinate, it may to be time to end the conversation. I am not advocating that we should end the relationship -- just the conversation topic. The Apostle Paul in the Book of Acts did this on occasion. Several cities he visited did not want to hear the Gospel and ran him out of town. Rather than going back and continuing to debate, he obliged their wishes and moved forward.
It is important to keep an open ear, however, should our atheist friends truly have something new to say. I find that I often learn the most from those I disagree with (such as when I was listening to the Dawkins/McGrath video I previously posted. I gained a certain respect for Dawkins' when he explained why he felt so strongly about his desire to search for truth. I had never heard an atheist articulate this point). Atheists also can have important observations about faith that we on the inside may fail to see. But once we begin to spin our wheels, nothing more productive can come from the conversation -- and we as Christians can look bad in the process, limiting our ability to be an effective witness in the future.