Talking with someone who is objecting to your Christian beliefs can be intimidating. We fear that we won’t be able to adequately answer the person’s objections and will look like a fool.
The intimidation and fear that a Christian feels is not unique. It is not as if Christians alone feel this way. Anyone whose beliefs (about any subject) are objected to will naturally feel this way.
In my (limited) experience, and having read books on the subject, I have found some useful tips for how to deal with such situations. I flatter myself as someone who knows a bit on the subject of Christian apologetics, but even if you don’t, I believe these tips will help you adequately deal with encountering objectors to your faith.
1) You are not Superman
Nobody knows everything, not even your objector. You should not feel obligated to know how to answer every objection. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to know as much as possible, but even if you spent every waking moment reading scholarly books and journal articles, there simply isn’t enough time to learn everything you would need to know in order to respond to every objection.
Likewise, remember that the success of Christendom does not rest on your shoulders. In some way, feeling as if it does is narcissistic. Christianity has lasted the trials of 2,000 years and will continue to do so if you blunder one conversation, even if that conversation is publicized. So, relax.
2) Ask the First Question
The first question you should ask any objector to your Christian faith is this: If Christianity were true and you could know it with 100% certainty, would you become a Christian?
Seems silly, right? Surely, any level-minded person would follow the truth wherever it leads. Not so. I was in dialogue with a well-known YouTube atheist recently and I asked him this very question. His response was, “If Christianity were true, I would have to reject it.”
In fairness he said this because he does not want to live forever. He would rather be annihilated than live eternally with God. He said if an eternal hell were his only other option that he might have to become a follower of Jesus.
The point is this: you may have lost the conversation before it ever began. Not all skeptics are rejecting Christianity because they find it hard to believe, though many do. And even if they became convinced in their minds, their hearts would not necessarily follow. Sometimes, all we can really do is share the gospel and pray. After all, it is God who saves, not us.
If someone answers the way that my skeptical friend did, there just simply isn’t much we can offer them. What could I say? If he doesn’t want it, he doesn’t want it. There are plenty of people who do want it and we should focus our efforts there. That may sound harsh, but time is precious and we cannot waste our efforts.
3) Ask More Questions
I’ve come to believe that a lot of times you don’t even have to have answers. You just have to have questions. That may sound strange, but consider that most people have not given much thought to why they believe what they believe, including non-religious people.
I recently spoke with author Greg Koukl about this. He has seen much fruit in his ministry simply by asking pointed questions. There are two important questions that you should ask repeatedly: (1) What do you mean by that? and (2) How do you know that?
The first question is about defining terms. Often times we speak past each other, getting nowhere in our conversations, because we are not talking about the same thing even if we are using the same words. The problem is that we do not agree on the definitions of the words we are using. Think about the word “fetus” in the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate. One side sees a human child and the other sees a clump of cells. This difference must be settled before the conversation can go anywhere.
The second question is about evidence and reason. If some one says “In this scientific age, we know miracles don’t happen,” I want to know how science has shown that. What scientific experiment has shown miracles to be impossible, or even improbable? I also want to know what the person means by “miracle,” how do they define the word?
By asking questions, you are shifting the burden. Now, it is on your objector to give a reason for what they believe and why they believe it. Take the stress off of yourself and just ask questions.
4) Don’t Get Sidetracked
It is not uncommon to be asked questions by skeptics like “Do you really think God flooded the whole earth and Noah survived on a boat?” “Aren’t there numerous errors and contradictions in the Bible?” And of course, everyone’s favorite, “What about dinosaurs?”
Here’s a thought: Who cares? What do the majority of these silly questions have to do with anything? Nothing. They are red herrings that distract from what really matters. What really matters? With respect to our skeptical friends, God’s existence and the Resurrection. If God exists and Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is true. Everything else can be worked out. Everything else is secondary. If the objection does not directly relate to these two subjects, feel free to disregard it, or even cede the point.
I do this with the “The Bible has contradictions” objection. I believe in the innerancy of Scripture, but even if it were true that the Bible contained contradictions, that wouldn’t mean that God does not exist, or that Jesus did not rise from the dead. Not even close.
5) Be humble
The last thing we need is another pretentious know-it-all apologist. We are not called to win arguments in a spirit of superiority. We are called to win people to Christ in a spirit of love and truth. Our character matters just as much as (if not more than) our argumentation. In fact, sometimes a humble life lived in servitude to Jesus is the strongest apologetic we can give.
Talking with objectors to your faith can be intimidating, especially for an introvert. However, there is nothing to be afraid of. Remember: the fate of Christianity does not rest on your shoulders, try to ask as many questions as possible, don’t get sidetracked, and stay humble. I think you will find your conversations less stressful.