How do we get to the heart of a person's question? Also, how do we talk with someone who believes faith in God is irrational?

Hey Michelle!

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions!

The question I have is what are the best way to get to the heart of the questioner? In other words, what are the best questions to ask someone to better understand what they are truly asking or to even to just be able to help open them up to their own assumptions?

And this might be the same answer to the previous question, but what are some of your favorite questions to ask someone you just meet in order to take the conversation past surface level and into a deeper convo?


Hi Michelle! Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! It was a blessing to hear your teaching about the Trinity in the Core Module.
I am an elementary teacher and had to go back to the University to get another degree. At the moment I attend University once a week. Last week a teacher asked: why can we be manipulated? She gave an example of how believing in God is irrational and that there is no absolute truth. She is teaching about the theories of learning. I wanted to give her an answer. A friend mentioned that believing God is something personal. Then I asked her, why are you giving an example about God if you started asking about the reason why man is manipulated. She quickly changed the question and asked: what is something irrational?
I know that my peers and teachers need God, and God has taken me there for a reason. I started the Core Module to be prepared to give a testimony of the truth. What could be a good way to address this matter in the future? Thank you!!!

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Hi @codyconnally and @Giannina_de_la_Cruz

Great questions! I think that there is some crossover to your questions so I am going to link my replies. What I love most about your question Cody is that you are already on the right track with your thinking. So often we rush in with answers when people ask us their hard questions, but to truly get ‘to the question behind the question’ as we like to say around here :wink: it takes asking good follow up questions. We see that Jesus practiced this in nearly all of his conversations that are recorded in the New Testament. Now Jesus was asking specifically to help the listener understand the true heart issue, as you mentioned above. We ask good questions for that reason and because we are not God, so we need to make sure that we truly understand why this individual is asking the question.

One of my favorite exercise to do to help prepare me for these conversations is to think of some of the most common tough questions that I get asked. I write these down and then under each of the questions I ask 3 follow up questions.

  1. Why might they be asking this question?
  2. What question could I ask to clarify and continue the conversation?
  3. How do I begin to respond?

The truth is that every question has multiple answers for all of those follow-up questions. For example, if someone asked me “How can you believe in the Bible when it has been changed so many times?”. Here are some of the things to think through.
1. Why might they be asking?
-They have never read the Bible but, they’ve heard that the Bible has been changed through the years through popular misconception.
-They read the Bible and came across things they didn’t understand or perceived to be contradictions.
-They have read and studied articles where people claim that there are problematic textual differences or sources.
-They know the Bible quite well, but they are struggling with a lifestyle that they know is prohibited in scripture and so they want to discredit the Bible’s authority.
2. What questions could I ask to clarify?
-Have you read the Bible?
-What changes are you talking about?
-Have you ever looked into the textual criticism of the Bible?
-Did you ever go to church or a Bible study where you were able to study and look into your questions about the Bible?
3. How do I begin to respond?
Depending on the way the person answered your follow up questions you would then have a better understanding of how to move the conversation deeper. If they just came across hostile scholars like Bart Erhman, who are trying to discredit the text from a scholarly point of view, the person may just want to spar with you intellectually and you may want to read up a little and then invite them to a follow-up conversation. If they have no examples to show where or how the Bible has been changed, you may want to invite them to read the text with you, or to talk further about your confidence in the reliability of the text. If they have a personal issue with the Bible or the church from their past or present, hopefully with some follow up questions about what part of the text they find offensive you can minister to them more specifically.

This practice grid will not give you a perfect formula for every question. I just find that it is a good exercise to remind myself, and others that we train at the Zacharias Institute or around the world at various conferences, that there are so many different underlying issues to questions and so many ways to engage people in deeper conversation.

Some of my favorite questions to ask are follow-up questions about the terms people have used. If someone says “Do you believe in Hell?” I might ask, What do you mean by Hell? or If they say “I believe in God, but I can’t believe in only one religion.” I might ask them to define god to me, or what religions they are familiar with.

@Giannina_de_la_Cruz in the case of your fellow student I would definitly suggest trying to meet up with her personally. If she was giving a presentation to the class, she probably will be less open to hearing or responding to honest questions that challenge some of her assumptions. Maybe you could ask her to explain why she thinks belief in God is irrational. Or, how can she be sure that there is no absolute truth? Ask her to define truth or God. Is she speaking about belief in any God or one religion specifically?

Keep going in your evangelistic conversations. Practice makes perfect! The more we have these conversations the more natural they become.

May you know joy in the Harvest,