A few years ago, Christian apologist Frank Turek authored a popular book called Stealing from God in which he argued … Well, let’s just let the promotional blurb do the work for us, shall we?
“If you think atheists have reason, evidence, and science on their side, think again! Award-winning author Dr. Frank Turek (I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist) will show you how atheists steal reason, evidence, science, and other arguments from God in trying to make their case for atheism. If that sounds contradictory, it’s because it is! Atheists can’t make their case without appealing to realities only theism can explain. In an engaging and memorable way, Stealing from God exposes these intellectual crimes atheists are committing and then provides four powerful reasons for why Christianity is true.”
So not only does Turek claim that atheists appeal to concepts which, so Turek alleges, can only be defended within a theistic worldview, but by doing this they are stealing from God and thereby committing crimes. Needless to say, all Turek’s points (causality, reason, information, morality) are disputable: even if one believes a particular concept is best explained in theism, it doesn’t follow that it can only be explained in theism.
But I want to focus on the other point, the fact that Turek decides to frame the atheist’s appeal to concepts Turek believes can only be explained in theism as criminal theft. This approach could not be farther away from the Apostle Paul who, when in Mars Hill, did not begin by insulting his Stoic interlocutors and accusing them of stealing from God. Rather, it began with him citing Stoics with approval, “‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.'” (Acts 17:28)
In other words, Paul sought to build bridges where possible, to find points of contact, to affirm the truth that others had discovered, to become all things to all people (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). When people had truth, he affirmed it and then went on to provide a fuller understanding of that truth as he saw it. He certainly knew enough to recognize that there is no reason to alienate one’s audience unnecessarily as incendiary and unwarranted charges of “stealing” would surely do. The differences will arise soon enough, but sound apologetics should begin with an olive branch, not a slap on the cheek.