I recently had the opportunity to attend an eight-hour-long apologetic communication class while t my church. The speaker key speaker was extremely well educated on the subject and a natural conversationalist speaker. I was reminded of one of the only times that I actually engaged in a conversation with a self-professed atheist.
His name was Philip. I had met him while visiting someone in the hospital. It was obvious he had been on the streets for some time. He was a skinny white male that was unkempt in his appearance and smelled like a smokers ash can. He was a man around 50 that said he was recently hospitalized, for reasons that I can only assume.
Philip said that he was hungry so I asked him if I could get him something to eat. We sat in a little dinette called Rita’s off 13. I expected that he was very hungry but he only proceeded to order a cheeseburger fries and a coke. I asked if he wanted dessert and he declined. He said it was bad for his image, using a hand gesture like a model uses to show off a dress. My friend John and I got a chuckle out of that.
Then Philip, asked if we could drop him off a few miles down the road at his house. I asked, do you rent a room? He replied, no I bought it a few years ago. So, off we went. I must confess, I fell into the trap of judgment, as I pictured a cardboard box on near a shrub covered path. That is until we arrived.
Thinking that maybe he is possibly a squatter, I said I would wait till he got in safely. Again to my happy surprise Philip, pulled out a set of keys opened the door to this beautiful two story beach house with patriotic flags neatly placed on the walkway and terrace. Before the door was shut he came running back out and said that we were welcomed to visit anytime.
I said ah ha! He wants us to come by again. I saw a truck in the driveway and asked if it was his. Again, he said yes but the registration was expired and he needed to renew it. I thought it was odd, but had no reason to disbelieve his story.
My wife ran a food pantry at church so I asked if he needed any food. He said he would like that. So, I promised to return with food the next day. He asked me to hold off because he was going out of town on business and would not be home until the day after.
So two days went by and John and I couldn’t wait to bless this guy with some food and
some down-home godly love and fellowship that I was sure he needed. As we approached the house there were about six or seven cats in the yard, some under the porch and strangely enough they had fresh cat food in an old dog food bowl.
He began saying he walks backward every day for 5 miles and is discouraged that the government is allowing companies to produce cigarettes that hook and kill people every day. I politely said I wish I knew why they did that?
Philip then said you believe in God? I said “yes”. He said I don’t think there is. I asked why he felt this way. He said that the Bibles he reads all say something different, so he feels that they are fictitious propaganda from the church.
I explained that the “Bibles” that he had thrown around on the floor were different translations, not different books. He looked at me perplexed. I asked did you read the entire Bible? He stated he had not because he gets confused with the wording (King James). I asked if he had read all of the other Bibles he had? He said no. When I asked why he cited his belief in God was lost when he was kicked out of a nearby church (not mine J) for arguing with a pastor. (my assumption is that it got loud)
He said that the pastor told him there were no errors in the Scriptures and he has found a lot of different sentences when comparing each Bible. I again explained the inerrancy of Scripture and that the translations were simply a different way to say the same thing, but from a different literary perspective. We examined several verses. including:
10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10, NIV) and 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10, ESV)
I chose this particular verse for two reasons. One to explain that even though the Bible may have different words, the meaning is still interpreted in the same way. The second reason was to discuss how even though we are also different from one another, we are still God’s children that he loves in the exact same way that He loves everyone on Earth.
To conclude and make a long story short. We talked for more than an hour in a dilapidated home with cats running throughout the house with a very used couch and chair and patriotic symbols, on all of the walls, covering the windows. When I was finished praying with and for his salvation, I promised to stop by and check on him from time to time and who knows maybe bring him the 20 miles to our church to baptize him. The conversation was to be continued.
I never saw Philip after those two times. I drove past once and saw that the truck was gone, and I had reached out to social services to have them do a wellness check. They knew Philip quite well. They said he chooses to live this way and there is nothing they can do to force him to clean up.