Through his ministry with Premier Christian Radio, Justin Brierley gives listening Christians an example to follow in interactions with atheists and skeptics. He says, “We run away from having these kinds of conversations because we’re afraid. There’s a classic verse, I Peter 3:15, that says, ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.’ What we often don’t get is the bit before that says, ‘Do not be afraid.’”
I Peter 3:14 “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’”
“We often enter these conversations guarded,” Brierley says. “To me, it’s more important to keep the conversation going. It breaks down barriers with someone who doesn’t have the same faith as you. This is another human loved by God. Be prepared to listen, don’t get defensive, and don’t have kneejerk responses when you hear something that offends you. Just be ready to listen.”
Referencing his work in Africa, Brierley testifies to the power of the Gospel to transcend regions and cultures. The Christian faith also applies across periods of time, he says. “Young people are now growing up with their peer group constantly at their side through their mobile phone – digital technology. That presents kinds of pressures on people’s mental health that we never had to deal with. It’s absolutely essential that the Church understands this, recognizes it and deals with it in fruitful ways. The Church needs to wake up to the fact that there is a mental health crisis and we’re called to be the answer to that.”
Addressing mental health, Johnston listens to a caller who has recently lost her son. “He was in his early 20s and had undetected mental illness,” she says. “I just wonder if you could address: are those people who have passed away and died this way with the Lord?”
Johnston quotes Romans 8:38-39 and 2 Corinthians 5:8. He tells listeners, “If you are a Christian, and you have struggled with anxiety and depression, you are not a second-rate, second-tier Christian. God can meet you right now in the midst of your adversity and pain, and He will bring you hope to transcend that anxiety and depression.”
Justin Brierley is the author of “Unbelievable? Why After Ten Years of Talking with Atheists, I’m Still a Christian.” He presents Premier Christian Radio’s flagship apologetics and theology debate, “Unbelievable?” each Saturday in the UK. He was the editor of Premier Christianity magazine.