Ever get uncomfortable listening to a religious view that’s different from yours? Sometimes, talking about morality and relgion can really get some people going—even to the point where you find it tough to get a word in edgewise. But allowing your skeptical friend to share their ideas or experiences is a key part of effectively navigating spiritual conversations.
Some Christians can get all defensive and feel a bunch of pressure to defend the entire Christian worldview when confronted with one objection to the faith! But wait. That doesn’t have to be you.
I’m suggesting we reduce this pressure by employing a modest goal and a simple strategy: Get your skeptical friend thinking by asking sincere, but strategic questions.
And then listen. Really listen. If we want people to listen to our stories and our ideas, we need to first be willing to listen to their stories and their ideas. As my mentor, Dr. Darrell Bock, at Dallas Theological Seminary says:
Sometimes Christians tend to want to talk too quickly and too much. Allowing someone to talk about their religious experience and how they feel about God is very important because you’re being given a window into their heart. We need to be slow to talk and quick to listen, so that we give people a time to tell their story.
Ask Good Questions
Jesus did it, too. My friend, Sean McDowell, noted how the gospels record Jesus asking 288 questions! Think about it. Many people who oppose the faith are merely repeating slogans they’ve heard but never really considered. Stuff like this: “The Bible’s full of contradictions,” “Christians are intolerant,” or “All religions are basically the same.” OK. Relax. No need to get defensive.
Truth is on Our Side
Even if you’re totally new to this, there’s apologetic value in a confident believer simply remaining calm under fire. Ultimately, the truth is on our side, and lies are not defensible. Because of this, we can exude confidence by engaging critics with a relaxed, conversational approach which uses more questions than statements.
I love how Greg Koukl says “Apologetics can look more like diplomacy than combat.”
I like that—a lot. In fact, I recommend his book, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, all the time! It’s an easy read and the tactics are practical. For example, asking questions like “What do you mean by that?” or “What’s your thinking on that?” can help critics consider what they believe and why they believe it—perhaps for the first time.
And if you get stumped by a question, t’s no problem to say something like, “That’s a great question. Let me think about that and get back to you.” Years ago, my pastor in Sacramento, CA echoed this sentiment in his message on 1st Peter 3, saying: “It’s OK to say, ‘I don’t know! Let me go ask someone at the church.”
Since I used to teach apologetics classes at church, I actually got to field some of those questions. But I’m confident that if you do your homework, you’ll find there are good answers to the hard questions. And even this exercise can strengthen your faith—a faith we can defend without getting defensive.
Now Hear This
If you liked this blog post, you’ll love Greg Koukl’s book, Tactics. Listen to him read my mini-review on the radio!