Answers in Genesis recently posted several billboards in the United States meant to reach out to atheists. Ken Ham, the head of the organization, said that the response to the billboards “exceeded our expectations.”
Since 2013 Answers in Genesis has actually put up several billboards meant to solicit a response from atheists their billboards carry messages that read:
The most recent billboards have solicited a big response from Christians and non-Christians alike. This prompted me to ask: Why would Answers and Genesis choose this method to deliver their message? Ken Ham answered this question himself on his blog when he wrote this on December 9, 2014:
I was not very surprised to find out my suspicions about what atheists would think of these billboards were correct. David Silverman, president of American Atheists, poked fun at these billboards and pointed out that the message really wasn’t even aimed at athiests like himself. “It’s meant for Christians,” he said, “These billboards will allow AIG to raise money – far more than the billboards cost – because they can now say that they are ‘reaching out to’ millions of atheists.” 
Before I go any further let me say that I have personally been blessed by much of what AIG has done. They have become a seedbed for some great apologetic thinking. Their creation museum is well done and worth visiting. While I do wish their billboard campaign would never have begun I don’t want to take away from any of their other ministries.
I think the best way to describe this campaign is that it is “Passive Aggressive.” While their stated intention is for passers-by to be drawn to the board and then go visit the AIG website, they seem to be going about spreading their message in a peculiar way. By using target words like “intolerant,” “liberal,” and “atheist” AIG is showing they are not looking for a dialogue but a fight. AIG is trying to pick up arms in some kind of “Culture War” that has pit Christians against atheists.
Here’s the problem with fighting this way: Every war needs an enemy and the billboards seem to portray entire groups of people as the “enemy.” It conveys an “us” verses “them” mentality that is in no way beneficial. When it comes to the Gospel there really is only “we.” While there is certainly nothing wrong with engaging in a legal process to support your own convictions we should never see the people on the other side as “the enemy." It would appear that AIG missed what “fighting the fight” is supposed to be about in the first place.
Even if you consider your ideological opponents (such as atheists or your “intolerant liberal friends”) actual enemies, name-calling, baiting, or antagonizing is just an ineffective technique. More than that, it has no real biblical backing. One of Jesus’ most radical ideas in the New Testament was that we should love our enemies and even goes so far as to pray for those people who persecute us.
Take, for example, the apostle Paul. The classic example of Paul’s preaching to the worldly thinkers of his day is found in Acts 17. This account takes place in the Greek city of Athens, which was named after the Greek goddess for wisdom, Athena, and was noted for its philosophers and thinkers. In fact, Luke tells us in verse 21, “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” So this group of pagans hears Paul’s teaching and decide they want to hear more.
Paul has here an opportunity to proclaim Christ to the anti-God pagans of his day, and notice how he begins “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you” (v. 22b-23). Notice Paul’s tactic. He actually begins by finding a point of commonality, and then beginning with something they are familiar with, he presents Christ.
Now Paul does not compromise the gospel. His method of presenting the gospel is different from when he presented it to Jews, but the gospel is the same. The point is that Paul did not begin by alienating his listeners from the start by name-calling or browbeating his opponents. He attempted to draw them in by finding a common point and then taking them to the cross from there.
This is exactly the kind of advice Paul gives us in Colossians 4:5-6 where he says “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Although this verse’s apologetic importance has been overstated, as Paul is probably thinking of much more than simply defending the faith against unbelievers, the general truth could still be applied. While this verse probably has much more than apologetics in mind, it doesn’t have less. When we respond to outsiders, we should do so in a way that is gracious and seasoned with salt.
Probably the clearest statement of this kind of method is given by Paul in 2 Timothy 2:24-26 “And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” Whether its Christ, Paul, or the other New Testament writers, we see consistently that false teachers within are dealt with in the harshest of language, but blind, deceived pagans without are shown grace and gentleness.
My point is this. AIG should be commended for their zeal. They passionately stand for their convictions and their stated intention to bring the Gospel to the world is a tremendous example. Their methods, however, could use some attention. This “us” verses “them” approach that has made certain segments of the culture “enemies” of Christianity is not beneficial.
We could conclude this way: People aren’t our enemies! When we start seeing atheist and intolerant liberals as enemies we have lost the heart of the Gospel.
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