My wife is awesome! In addition to everything she does around the house (which is way more than I do), she also has a part time job, plus she watches two little kids--Sterlin and Makayla--a few days a week. Over the past several years, the collection of toys around the house has changed. Of late, the kids have shown a love of puzzles. They like Disney, Ninja Turtles, and various other kinds of puzzles, most of which my wife gets for a couple of bucks at the local “Dollar” store. (My wife is also a very wise spender.)
Some time ago, while I was working at home, Sterlin and Makayla were playing with a couple of puzzles on our living room coffee table. As I walked through the living room towards the kitchen, I stopped and chatted with them for a minute.
“What are you guys doing?” I inquired.
“We’re doing puzzles, Mr. Stuart,” Makalya answered.
“Yeah, but she keeps stealin’ my pieces,” her brother complained.
“Makayla, you can’t use other people’s pieces in your puzzle. They don’t fit,” I told her.
Nonplussed, she attempted to jam a green Ninja Turtle shell into the spot where the body of Olaf-the-talking-snowman from Frozen was supposed to go. I laughed, and asked her, “It doesn’t fit, does it?”
I got to thinking about how this could be applied to apologetics.
In his book, The Story of Reality, Greg Koukl uses the analogy of a puzzle to describe a worldview. “When the pieces fit together properly, you’re able to see the big picture clearly” (Koukl, 26). What is great about this analogy is we can use it to describe how atheist and naturalist often steal pieces from the Christian worldview to use in their own worldview (puzzle). But just like it didn’t work for little Makayla trying to force Raphael’s shell into Olaf’s body, trying to jam pieces of the Christian worldview into the atheist worldview doesn’t work. The pieces don’t fit!
But you have to be on the lookout for this. The examples are often very subtle. If Sterlin hadn’t been paying attention, it’s quite likely he would have missed his sister trying to steal his puzzle piece. Christian’s need to look for situations where atheist try the same trick.
If an atheist asserts something is objectively right or wrong, he is stealing a puzzle piece from the Christian worldview. Under atheism there can be no objective right or wrong, it’s just my opinion verses yours.
If an atheist objects to so-called unjustified evil and suffering, he’s stealing a puzzle piece from the Christian worldview. If the universe really is caused from nothing, humans just evolved through random natural processes, and there is no ultimate purpose or meaning to life, then evil and suffering are just brute facts of existence. As atheist Richard Dawkins is often quoted, “In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference” (Dawkins, River Out of Eden, 113).
In fact, if your atheist friend even makes any claim of reason or rationality, he is stealing a puzzle piece from the Christian worldview. For under an atheistic, naturalistic worldview, our minds are our brains, and our thoughts are just neurochemical processes happening inside our brains based on external stimuli. As Frank Turek has rightly noted, “For if mental processes are nothing but chemical reactions in the brain, then there is no reason to believe that anything is true... Chemicals can’t evaluate whether or not a theory is true. Chemicals don’t reason, they react” (Why Trust Reason if You’re an Atheist, 2008).
Be on the lookout for these (and other) sorts of puzzle-piece stealing exercises. When you see one, point it out! But do this by asking a question.