In today’s world, Christians are coming face to face with the culture on a regular basis. It’s more important than ever for the Christian to know how to defend their beliefs. When answering tough challenges by those skeptical of Christian beliefs, many Christians can resort to statements like “because the Bible says so,” “I just take it on faith,” or “you’ve just got to trust God.”
What a skeptic hears, however, is “I really have no good reason for what I believe” and “I’m just brainwashed.”
It’s long past time to show non-believers that Christians can make an intelligent case for their beliefs. Here are five ways Christians can prepare to intellectually hold their own in a conversation with a non-believer about Christianity:
Read. A lot.
It’s important for Christians to read and study, not only the Bible, but also other Christian books and writings as well. I can say that there are many Christians out there who are smarter than me that have written great books on various aspects of Christian beliefs.
Books like Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig and Love Your God with All Your Mind by J.P. Moreland are full of great information that gives evidence and reason for believing in the tenets of Christianity.
Books like Finding Truth by Nancy Pearcey and Tactics by Gregory Koukl give Christians tools in their belt to discern faulty arguments and logical errors and graciously help the non-believer to consider a Christian alternative.
So read, read, and read some more! Discipleship implies continuous learning.
Never read a Bible verse
Along the lines of reading books, the Bible is (of course) essential. That said, there’s an important piece of advice that I got from Greg Kokul: never read a Bible verse.
Instead, always read at least a paragraph or more depending on the verse to get its proper context. Meaning always flows downward. In other words, the individual verses get their meaning from the whole passage.
Christians and non-Christians alike are guilty of taking Bible verses out of context. For Christians, reading their Bible in this way will help give them a greater understanding of the meaning of the passages and verses contained within.
It will also help them identify errors they may encounter. Non-Christians don’t necessarily believe in the Bible, but that doesn’t stop them from pulling out particular verses to support their cause or belief when it suits them.
I recently read an article arguing how Jesus was a liberal. Regardless of whether He was or not, the verses the author used to support her case were all taken wildly out of context. A contextual reading of the Bible helped me to identify the errors and think about how I would respond in a conversation on this topic.
Understand that God does not call us to a “blind faith.”
I wrote a blog about this in April. While the popular notion in today’s culture is that one must abandon critical thought in order to have faith, the Bible teaches a different kind of faith.
Evidence is the beginning point for our Christian beliefs. Even Jesus himself said in John 10:36-38 (emphasis mine):
“…why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’? After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world. Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.”
God wants followers who utilize their minds. He wants Christians who will think about the issues.
Think about it. If we say Christianity is true, then we’re really saying that Christianity reflects reality. If this is the case, then Christianity is not just another one of the myriad of world religions out there. It’s reality. And if it’s reality, there is tons of evidence to be had to help persuade others that Christianity is true.
Practice with other Christians
Like most anything else we do, sharing your beliefs and learning how to present intelligent arguments for Christianity requires practice. Plus, arguments are important for sharpening our understanding of Christian beliefs and getting to the truth.
Greg Kokul also emphasizes the importance of arguments within the Christian community:
Arguments are good, and dispute is healthy. They clarify the truth and protect us from error and religious despotism. When the church discourages principled debates and a free flow of ideas, the result is shallow Christianity and a false sense of unity. No one gets any practice learning how to field contrary views in a gracious and productive way. The oneness they share is contrived, not genuine. Worse, they lose the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. Simply put, when arguments are few, error abounds.
Find a fellow Christian you know and practice with them. Have one of you role-play as a skeptic while the other defends their beliefs, then switch. Also, let’s not be afraid of having reasoned debates within the church. As Kokul says it will help us clarify the truth.
Lastly, but certainly not least, pray. Prayer is a powerful tool at our disposal that I would venture to say many of us (including myself) under-use. Asking for wisdom is something I do almost every time I pray because I know I need it.
I also ask God for opportunities to share my beliefs with others and find ways to be bold for Him. It’s frightening to be sure because what if God grants my request? But as a friend of mine, Scott Savage, once said, if your prayers don’t scare you, they’re probably insulting to God.
I’ve never forgotten that. God is waiting to use you in great ways, fellow Christian. Do you have the boldness to ask for that kind of life?
I’m not asking every Christian to become a scholar or get a doctorate in philosophy and religion. But knowing why you believe what you believe is very important. Christianity will take you as deep intellectually as you want to go. And as followers of Christ, we should all at least have a few solid, evidential reasons for why we believe God exists; why we believe the Bible is true and reliable; why we believe Christianity is true.
To paraphrase Dr. William Lane Craig, Christians cannot be stuck in intellectual neutral.