Is Evangelism A Waste of Time?

I have several friends who, while not card carrying atheists, appear to be headed that way. We love to discuss and argue religion. They often pose questions to me that I can’t answer satisfactorily. Some of these questions are very disturbing. I’m stuck between trying to think up good answers or drop them from my friend list, a thing I would rather not do. The latest question I cannot answer goes something like this. Supposedly, God at this very moment knows exactly the ultimate fate of every alive human, either Heaven or Hell. Then, why would I as a potential evangelist, ever bother to go to some deep jungle in Borneo and try to spread the word of Christ and Christianity to the pagan cannibals I find there? I can’t possibly change the scheme God already has worked out. So why do I bother? How do I answer such a question?

Because every human being acts with free will, and every Christian as a member of Christ’s body. God’s foreknowledge is not a dictate but an understanding of how our free will will play out. Still, we have that will, and are responsible for how we exercise it, and can bring or lose people to the faith through it. We fail to understand how such a scheme can work when we lose sight of God being in his nature incomprehensible, infinite, and on a level of being different than anything else.

A lot of atheists favor determinism. Why do the more ambitious ones bother doing anything to change the world bring about new discoveries? It’s already determined, is it not?

First off, their question makes no sense because Catholics don’t believe in predestination. Just because God knows what decisions we will make and what will ultimately happen, doesn’t mean that we do not have the ability to make a decision which will cause a person to convert, such as becoming a missionary in Burneo. It’s like if you are standing on the edge of a building thinking about jumping. God knows whether you will choose to jump or not, but that foreknowledge does not influence your free will to choose to jump or not.

Also, why are your only options to come up with good answers or unfriend them? Give an answer, if they don’t like it, that is fine. Accept people’s opinions as different to your own. Honestly, you could have the best argument on the planet and you ain’t gonna change a person’s mind except in rare occasions, human’s are very defensive of their opinions to the point of blindness.

This is not a bad thing. They are interested enough to ask questions. Do your best to answer, and above all show charity. They might come around, by the grace of God.

Mark 16: 15 He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.


They may not be ready to convert now, but you in your kindness, have planted a seed. You have given them much to think about and later on they may convert.

Amen. We are all called to evangelize in some way.

It’s not easy, but if others have questions, I suggest, depending on your free will, to accept the challenge, get the answers or not. But pray to God first. He is with you at all times. He knows you. If you decide you can’t do this, think about why.

God will not force us to do anything, but we need faith and works.

Hope this helps,

Jesus told us to go and make disciples.
Evangelization is central to our Catholic faith. I think it is what strengthens our relationship with God.
It’s not so much about having the answers or being good at debate… so much as it is just about witnessing to Jesus and his love and then just letting God do the rest. We may not see the results, but we can always plant seeds :slight_smile:

Well first of all they are actually questioning God, not you. And that’s a good thing. Tell them these are great questions and deserve proper responses and you will get back with them. You have 2000 years of Catholic teaching and philosophy to fall back on. You have already received some good answers in this thread.

The question assumes that the fate of the cannibals would be the same if you went there or not. So why bother? This is a mistaken assumption. Let’s say if you went there many would be saved. But, if you didn’t go none would be saved. God knows what that outcome will be. But, you don’t know. You have to choose. And what you choose will have vastly different outcomes. Even if God knows what you will choose it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter what you choose or what that outcome will be. Ask them if they think it matters what important life decisions they make like what career to choose or who to marry. If everything is fatalistic and determined as atheism if true would indicate then what significance do their own choices have since they are just chemical reactions in the brain?

You actually have a lot more options: such as peacefully agree to disagree. You can also admit that you do not know the answer to every question, but the evidence you have for faith right now is more than convincing.

This would be an excellent question for someone who believes in predestination.

As you are Catholic and don’t believe in predestination, it’s an easily answered question: because you are part of God’s work. A person does not end up in Heaven or Hell based on God’s whims, but based upon their acceptance of Christ. You are part of God’s work to bring a person more knowledge and opportunity to accept Christ.

“I know and you know that you are going to die sometime. So obviously, it doesn’t matter to you whether I kill you today, right? Because all those little details about how it happens, like you suffering and losing many years of life, and me becoming a murderer, don’t really matter, right?”

Well, don’t say that!

Anyway, it’s not so much that the Church doesn’t teach predestination, as that the Church teaches that God dwells outside time and space, and so He knows all things happening at all times “as they happen,” all at once. This does not preclude individual free will; the events would not happen at all if individual humans did not freely choose to do things.

From Pope Benedict XVI

“The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” (Lk 24: 34). This is the “Good News” par excellence in the entire history of the world, it is the “Gospel” proclaimed and passed on down the centuries, from generation to generation…The Good News of Easter, therefore, requires the action of enthusiastic and courageous witnesses. Each disciple of Christ, and also each one of us, is called to be a witness. This is the precise, demanding and exalting mandate of the Risen Lord. The “news” of new life in Christ must shine out in the life of Christians, it must be alive and active in those who bring it, really capable of changing hearts and the whole of life…Therefore the Lord sends us everywhere as his witnesses. But we can only be such on the basis of and with continuous reference to the Paschal experience, the experience which Mary Magdalene expresses when she announces to the other disciples: “I have seen the Lord” (Jn 20: 18). This personal encounter with the Risen One is the steadfast foundation and central content of our faith, the fresh and inexhaustible source of our hope, the ardent dynamism of our charity. Thus our Christian life itself will fully coincide with the announcement: “Christ the Lord has risen, indeed”. Let us, therefore, allow ourselves to be won over by the fascination of Christ’s Resurrection.

Gen. Audience April 7, 2010

Consequently, it is fundamental for our faith and for our Christian witness to proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as a real, historical event, attested by many authoritative witnesses. We assert this forcefully because, in our day too, there are plenty of people who seek to deny its historicity, reducing the Gospel narrative to a myth, to a “vision” of the Apostles, taking up and presenting old and already worn-out theories as new and scientific…

Let us welcome him with faith and adhere generously to his Gospel, as did the privileged witnesses of his Resurrection; and as, some years later, did St Paul who encountered the divine Teacher in an extraordinary manner on the Road to Damascus. We cannot keep for ourselves alone the proclamation of this Truth that changes the life of all.

Aud 4-15-09

…we hear the cry of the Apostle to the Gentiles resounding with special urgency: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9: 16); a cry that becomes for every Christian a pressing invitation to serve Christ. “The harvest is plentiful” (Mt 9: 37) the Divine Teacher still repeats today: so many still do not know him and are awaiting the first proclamation of his Gospel; others, although they received a Christian formation, have become less enthusiastic and retain only a superficial contact with God’s Word; yet others have drifted away from the practice of the faith and need a new evangelization. Then there are plenty of people of right understanding who ask themselves essential questions about the meaning of life and death, questions to which only Christ can give satisfactory answers. It is, therefore, becoming indispensable for Christians on every continent to be ready to reply to those who ask them to account for the hope that is in them (cf. 1 Pt 3: 15), joyfully proclaiming the Word of God and living the Gospel without compromises.

Homily Pope Benedict XVI 5 Oct 2008

“One of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection,” said Peter. His Successor now repeats to each of you: My brothers and sisters, you need to become witnesses with me to the resurrection of Jesus. In effect, if you do not become his witnesses in your daily lives, who will do so in your place? Christians are, in the Church and with the Church, missionaries of Christ sent into the world. This is the indispensable mission of every ecclesial community: to receive from God and to offer to the world the Risen Christ, so that every situation of weakness and of death may be transformed, through the Holy Spirit, into an opportunity for growth and life. To this end, in every Eucharistic celebration, we will listen more attentively to the word of Christ and devoutly taste the bread of his presence. This will make us witnesses, and, even more, bearers of the Risen Jesus in the world, bringing him to the various sectors of society and to all those who live and work there, spreading that “life in abundance” (cf. Jn 10:10) which he has won for us by his cross and resurrection, and which satisfies the most authentic yearnings of the human heart.

We impose nothing, yet we propose ceaselessly, as Peter recommends in one of his Letters: “In your hearts, reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15). And everyone, in the end, asks this of us, even those who seem not to. From personal and communal experience, we know well that it is Jesus whom everyone awaits. In fact, the most profound expectations of the world and the great certainties of the Gospel meet in the ineluctable mission which is ours, for “without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. In the face of the enormous problems surrounding the development of peoples, which almost make us yield to discouragement, we find solace in the sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ, who teaches us: ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn 15:5) and who encourages us: ‘I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Mt 28:20)” (Caritas in Veritate, 78).

~ Pope Benedict XVI

As an atheist, it sounds like none of you have asked atheists what it would take to change their point of view. If I came to you trying to sell you something without knowing who you are, what is important to you, how you come to make decisions and conclusions that change your way of life, then how arrogant of me is it to assume that because this worked on me, it should work on you as well. The thing about atheists, as with christians and anyone else, you’ll find is that is that we all have developed our own individual level of evidence and processes for implementing new “truths” that we will live by. That is why the person sitting next to you will have a different implementation of the same faith and god as you. Also, if the best your god has for selling his existence is the current level of dialog that the religious are offering, then no that’s really not coming across as divinely influenced when you could change out the conversation of god with a political party’s sales pitch. Rolling your eyes at some opposing political party’s presentation and you’ll see why we’re reacting the same way to your approach.

Welcome to the forum Russell_SA
Great first post

You’ve developed your own atheist evidence? That’s interesting.
I see many prominent atheists ‘evangelizing’ these days. Peter Boghossian for example definitely doesn’t see proselytizing as a waste of time.

I think the answer to the Op is that in certain cases, yes it can be a futile exercise but in general it’s not only worthwhile but mandatory as well.

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

NO! There wouldn’t be Christians if the early ones didn’t tell the world! Be well versed in Bible, philosophy, rhetoric, and logic. Otherwise, you won’t get very far. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you, and don’t expect an overnight conversion. I’ve seen this grace work before. Don’t doubt it does!

[quote=Russell_SA] The thing about atheists, as with christians and anyone else, you’ll find is that is that we all have developed our own individual level of evidence and processes for implementing new “truths” that we will live by. That is why the person sitting next to you will have a different implementation of the same faith and god as you.

IOW, first principles. (the fundamental concepts or assumptions on which a theory, system, or method is based.)

The thing about first principles is they are unprovable, yet they underlie all of our thinking.

So it is imperative, to try and get to the root (or the first principles) of another, and analyze whether it is logical or not, or simply wrong, based on provable (or a preponderance of) evidence.

You’ve developed your own atheist evidence? That’s interesting.
I see many prominent atheists ‘evangelizing’ these days. Peter Boghossian for example definitely doesn’t see proselytizing as a waste of time.

No one has their own evidence, unless its first hand to them only. They have levels of importance of that evidence that sways them to change their position on a topic. (Stop implying that I meant something that I didn’t say. If you were unclear on this point, ask. Stop assuming to place what you wanted me to mean. That’s the most frustrating conversation issue I have with everyone that is of an opposing religious and/or political view. They do exactly what you just did with “You’ve developed your own atheist evidence?” All that tells me is that you are looking for something to justify to yourself why you should not have to listen to what atheists have to say. Also, the religious will change the meaning of words because they have synonyms of others and so they think the two different words can imply the same meaning the person was trying to communicate.)

I did not say that it was a waste of time. I was describing the level of dialog between the two parties, from the point of view of the receiving end of the atheists. I am attempting to point out how to improve your sales pitch. If you want atheists, or anyone really, to listen to what you are about and saying, you first have to become someone that they respect and look to for advice and knowledge. The conversation comes across as, “Well I told them, now its on them to develop a relationship with my god.” Well first off your god came across as no different than a guy claiming to have a girlfriend in another town that no one ever runs into. Secondly, you’re approach was soo condescending and dismissive that it created a further rift from us ever wanting to be a part of your group. Listen to the feedback people have about why they don’t subscribe to your version of the “truth” and you’ll learn how to change your approach. When people ask you questions, they are telling what is important to them for you to address. Not adequately addressing their questions and then changing the topic to a more comfortable one only illustrates how quickly you do not or can not address our criticisms and concerns. Going on and on about information that doesn’t have as importance as the questions and topics we asked about, isn’t going to get you anywhere.
Quoting the bible doesn’t work on us like a jedi mind trick. All it does is illustrate how much you can geek out over your favorite toy. It’s like non-star-wars fans having to listen to die-hard star-wars fans arguing over minutia of the series. Quoting princess leia to back up your point is as meaningful as to us as quoting jesus or anyone else in your favorite book. We haven’t come to the point yet of thinking that jesus or leia’s point of view on a topic is any more significant than bob down the street. The point that interests us the point of the topic, regardless who said it.

So it is imperative, to try and get to the root (or the first principles) of another, and analyze whether it is logical or not, or simply wrong, based on provable (or a preponderance of) evidence.

The problem with logic is that both people have to agree on what the item being identified is. Logic does not work if one person describing object A while the other person is describing it as object B. And logic is limited by the imagination of both parties being convinced of what the possibilities of object A and B are. That is limited by our knowledge of our experiences. So by this, you can be logically correct and still factually wrong just because you did not know yet what the limits of object A and B are. You can not define something into existence. You can both be justified in your conclusions because what it takes for your justification is different from the other.

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