Do Christians fear debate?

Why would a pastor encourage his congregation to avoid engaging atheists?  Doesn’t 1 Peter 3:15 tell us we should, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”? This question, or a variation of it, is often used by crafty people trying to goad Christians into a fight. It’s also been used as “proof” that Christians are people who don’t think.  Is this a fair complaint?

We are told in 1 Peter to be ready to give answer.  But it doesn’t tell us to throw our pearls before swine.  And there is a very big difference between engaging someone in respectful discussion and entertaining someone whose goal is conflict. Jesus made it clear how we are to act when someone refuses to hear the word.  He said in Matthew 10:14, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” Scripture after scripture records Jesus giving answers to those truly seeking answers, but not so much attention to the trolls of his day.

Jeremiah 29:13 tells us anyone who seeks God with all their heart will find Him. God gives us the choice.  We can also choose to reject Him and, as Second Corinthians says, have our eyes blinded to the truth.  Those who claim to have no position, yet spend hours condescending Christians and misrepresenting scripture to “win” an argument are not seeking truth, but picking a fight. 

God’s gift of redemption is never forced on anyone.  Will you accept His offer?