Letter #2 to an Agnostic Friend: Where to Begin, Prayer and the Bible

agnostic letters May 13, 2024

Dear friend,

In my previous letter, I shared how I personally became a Christian from atheism.

As I write these letters to you, I also encourage you to take action to seek for yourself the truth of God’s existence and of Christianity in particular.

Here is how I recommend you do that:

  1. Say a prayer each day for God to make Himself known to you so that you can believe.
  2. Start reading St. Matthew’s Gospel.

Here’s a bit more on the prayer part of that recommendation.

God is omniscient, so He knows everything. He knows that you currently don’t believe in Him (or maybe are unsure if you do), and He knows that you want to believe in Him if He is real.

But God prompts us with His grace to seek Him. It is up to us, choosing of our own free will, to accept that grace and pray for God to help us believe. God will never force Himself onto you, because He wants our love, freely given, since otherwise it is compelled and therefore not love at all.

Therefore when you pray, you are simply talking to God and asking for help. He already knows you, knows everything about you, your entire life, your innermost thoughts, fears, and hopes. He knows every evil thing you’ve ever done, and every good thing. But just as a father enjoys it when his child asks him for a good gift, something that he wants to give, so our Father in Heaven loves us and wants us to ask for the things we need.

Jesus said as much in Luke 11:

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Now that you are praying a short prayer each day, you should also begin to learn about Jesus Christ, and the best way is in the Gospels.

The Bible is split up into the Old Testament, which precedes the Incarnation of Christ, and the New Testament, which begin with the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Historically, this puts the timeline of the Old Testament beginning with Creation and going to around 100 B.C. The Old Testament concerns the People of God in the Old Covenant, the Israelites, and how God led them throughout those thousands of years. The Old Testament prefigures the New Testament and includes many prophecies about the eventual coming of the Messiah, who is Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

The New Testament focuses on the life of Jesus Christ, His death and Resurrection, and the foundation of the Church and its early decades in the first century A.D.

The first book of the New Testament is the Gospel of St. Matthew. It is followed by three other Gospels, which give similar accounts of Jesus (so heavy overlap exists between these first four books).

You could start with any of the four Gospels, but St. Matthew’s works great for getting to know who Jesus is. Some parts of the Gospel writing will make sense to you, and others will not. You are being plopped into a small part of the Near East around two thousand years ago, which was under the rule of the Roman Empire, and you are reading about the plight of the Israelites who lived there, a minority religious group who had longed for their deliverance and the coming of their Christ, who would save them and, as many of them thought, would establish an earthly kingdom where they would no longer be persecuted and maligned.

Hence, don’t be concerned when you encounter strange cultural and religious ideas and practices, and don’t know who the Sadducees were, or why it would be important to list a very long genealogy for Jesus going back to Adam and Eve. All these things are important, and indeed God Himself inspired St. Matthew to write the Gospel, but not all of them are vital for you to comprehend right out of the gate.

Focus on what Jesus says and what He does, seeking to understand who He is as God Incarnate. In the next Gospel, St. Mark’s, a man named St. John the Baptist, who prepared the people for the coming of Jesus, said, “Repent and believe in the good news [gospel].” Repent means to turn away from sin and evil and toward God and the forgiveness that only He can offer.

If you get on a roll and read through St. Matthew’s Gospel quickly, I encourage you to keep reading the other three Gospels—St. John’s is the most unique—and then continue reading through the rest of the New Testament.

Before I close this letter, let me take a step back and say: the cosmic problem that man has is sin. Sin is doing something evil, disobeying God.

Adam and Eve were created without sin, in a state of Original Innocence, but they were tempted by Satan, an angel who himself had rebelled against God, and they fell to the temptation, disobeyed God, and committed the first sin.

All men subsequently have inherited this stain from that Original Sin, so we in our lives, when we reach the age of reason, commit actual sins ourselves. What was God to do about this? Because He loved us and created us in His own image to be happy with him, but now sin separates us from Him, who is perfect and holy?

In the Old Covenant, he set up a system of animal sacrifices that the Israelites performed regularly, especially when they had their Temple, but these sacrifices and offerings were imperfect and merely prefigured the coming of the true sacrifice, that of God Himself made man in Jesus Christ, who gave His life freely in love of us, to atone for our sins.

Jesus’ perfect offering of love to the Father superabundantly atoned for all our sins and won our redemption from death and hell. Men could now be truly reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, be cleansed from their sins via Baptism and afterwards Confession, and prepared themselves in this life to meet God when they die, face their judgment, receive His mercy, and be happy with Him forever in Heaven.

As you read the Bible, keep this background in mind, and it will help you understand what’s going on, and more importantly, to consider for yourself whether it is true.


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