The great evangelist H. A. Ironside was preaching on a busy street corner in a Northeastern city when a well-dressed man walked up and began to ridicule and jeer. Ironside recognized the heckler as a university professor and a well-known and vocal atheist. This professor was full of bitterness and anger against all religion, but especially against Christianity.
As Ironside tried to continue his message, the man began to shout objections. He criticized the Bible and labelled Christians as ignorant fools. He loudly proclaimed, “There is no God! Jesus is a myth!”
At first, Ironside tried to ignore the man, but the professor grew more and more belligerent, taunting Ironside to respond to his intellectual arguments. Finally the man shouted, “I challenge you to a debate! Are you afraid to debate me?”
Ironside knew that an intellectual debate with this man would accomplish nothing, but he also knew that he must respond to the man’s attack. “I accept your challenge, sir,” he shouted, but on one condition! When you come to the debate, I ask that you bring with you ten men and women whose lives have been changed for the better by the message of atheism!
“Bring some alcoholics and drug addicts who have been set free by atheist power. Bring former prostitutes and criminals whose lives have been changed, who are now moral and responsible individuals. Bring outcasts who had no hope and have them tell us how becoming atheists has lifted them out of the pit!
And sir,” Ironside concluded, “if you can find ten such men and women, I will be happy to debate you. And when I come, I will gladly bring with me two hundred men and women from this very city whose lives have been transformed in just those ways by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ!”
As the professor heard Ironside’s challenge, he stopped his jeering, turned and walked away without a word. He knew that, for all its pretense, atheism had no power to change lives. JESUS changes lives.