Arguing with Atheists, part 2

One of the most helpful books I’ve read on apologetics is Greg Koukl’s Tactics. The blurb on the back cover provides a great summary: “Tactics teaches you how to maneuver comfortably and graciously as you share your faith with others. Learn how to navigate the mine fields, stop challengers in their tracks, turn the tables and—most importantly—get people thinking about Jesus.”

One of the main tactics Koukl suggests we use is careful questioning. When explaining your belief in God, the Bible, or Christian values, you shouldn’t be the only one giving an account for your views. Ask them to explain theirs, too. In fact, a thoughtful question about their beliefs is sometimes even more effective at changing someone’s mind than a thorough explanation of yours.

For example, “What do you mean by that?” is a great question to gather more information and momentarily take a little bit of the pressure off you.

Another useful question is something like: “How did you come to that conclusion?” Or “Why do you say that? What are your reasons for holding that view?” Questions like this can soften the tone of the conversation, because they show interest in the other person’s view. Plus, their answer will show you whether their opinion is adequately supported. In fact, people often haven’t considered why they think a certain way, and this question can help them recognize all the assumptions they’ve made.

If the conversation is about why you believe in God, ask: “What do you mean by ‘God’? Can you explain to me exactly what kind of God you reject?” Their answer will dramatically shape how you respond. If they bring up the lack of proof for God’s existence, ask: “What kind of evidence would you find acceptable for proof of God’s existence?”

Here’s one you can use in almost any conversation: “Have you ever read much of Jesus’ own words and teachings?” If they say no, given them an enticing example (I love John 4:13-14 or John 8:12 for this); and then encourage them to read one of the gospels for themselves. If they say yes, move the conversation forward by asking: “Have you found anything He said that’s especially compelling or offensive to you?”

Your goal is to win the person, not the argument. In fact, Koukl recommends you don’t focus on winning at all. Instead, just give them something to think about. As he says it, “Put a rock in their shoe.”