How reasonable are our reasons?
I’It's the very thing that most Christians are least confident about and yet it's the number one way we get into sharing our faith. ‘Hey you're a Christian what do you think about..?’ ‘How can you believe when..?’ I'm sure you've been there! So how do we respond in those situations? Well I only have a few moments to chat about something that has taken me 25 years to develop. I teach on this subject a lot and so if you want more info then contact me; my details are at the end of this article.
Here are a few practical things that we need to employ, which I have developed over the time that I have spent defending Christianity, from discussion with one person to debating in universities.
Defence not an attack
It's very easy when somebody asks you a question, or even challenges what you believe, to go on the attack. It's my observation that many Christians don't share their faith for fear they may be unable to answer difficult questions. Sometimes the opposite is true we can end up attacking what others believe. However in my experience this doesn't prove the most constructive time. I believe it's more important to defend what we believe. Confidence leads to gentleness! We need to be confident about what we believe but not arrogant about it.
Reasonable rather than circular
‘Because it says so in the Bible!’ You won't hear me disagreeing with you there but that's because what the Bible says is good enough for me. Unfortunately people who aren't Christians don't think quite like that. I don't want to be misunderstood here because I use the Bible a lot in my evangelism. But may I suggest that when trying to reason with people who don't value the Bible, let alone believe it, that simply saying ‘because it says so in the Bible’ is more circular than it is reasonable. I believe we need to reason with people in a way that is thought-provoking and not just preaching.
Most people’s thinking is untested thinking
Many people believe what they believe without really knowing why they believe it! Their thinking is untested! Let me give your an example. ‘The Bible is full of contradictions!’ Often said by someone who has never read it! Here's another I've had: ‘The problem with you Christians is you only believe what people tell you or what you read in a book’. Most people formulate what they believe by listening to other people and what they read in a book or see on TV, so what's the problem? I can hear you saying now: ‘What about the inner witness of the Holy Spirit?’ That's kind of what I was talking about in the previous section.
When I was at school my maths teacher gave me points for showing my working out - even if my answer was wrong. Even if people disagree with our conclusion they will respect us for our working out!
Do give GOOD answers
One of the first things I say when anybody ask me a question is, ‘That's interesting; why do you ask that question?’ It's very easy to launch into well-rehearsed answers (not that this is wrong per-see). It's no good giving a polished answer about why there is so much suffering, if they had some personal suffering that caused the question. Talking about Adam’s sin bringing suffering into the world is biblically true but not emotionally or philosophically helpful. It's always good to discover the real issue, and then connect with people on that rather than not answering properly because we haven't dug deeper.
All that said, I do believe we need to give good and thought-provoking answers to the questions that people have. It's not good enough when someone asks you to prove God to simply say ‘You disprove God!’ That's avoiding the issue and doesn't help them. Well I need to stop now - I've only scratched the surface but I hope it's given you some food for thought.
Let me finish with the words of 1 Peter 3:15. ‘But in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.’
Here’s the challenge of this verse:
Live well… ‘in your hearts honour Christ as Lord’
Prepare well… ‘always be prepared’
Act well… ‘do it with gentleness and respect’.
In other words be as dedicated in how you live for God and treat others as you are to answering questions. This will bring good balance to your evangelism.
Mark Greenwood is a member of the HOPE leadership team and National Evangelist for Elim Churches, heading up evangelism for the movement.