How Should We Respond to Objections to Christianity?

Ravi Zacharias often said that “Behind every question is a questioner.” What exactly does that mean, and how do we put this encouragement into practice?

In this episode of Ask Away, Jo and Vince explain how to identify and lovingly respond to the fundamental concerns and desires that underlie objections to Christianity in a way that provides opportunities for meaningful conversations that can introduce people to Jesus.

After you’ve listened to the podcast, join our discussion about it! Here are some questions to jumpstart our conversation:

  • How can we love questioners well?
  • How can we follow Jesus’s example in how we respond to objections to Christianity?
  • Will you approach your next conversation about objections to Christianity differently than you have in the past?
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There’s no way to comment on all the good ideas in this podcast. I’ll try to limit myself to two.

I appreciated Vince Vitale’s advice that we identify the concern behind someone’s question and the desire behind that concern. People are often starting with a good desire. If we affirm that and build on it, they will be more open to the ideas we share with them. A number of my recent conversations would have gone better if I had done this. Even when I determine to enter a conversation in a positive way, I slip back into my old bad habits. I definitely need God’s help on this one.

I also loved Jo Vitale’s comment about prayer at the end of the episode.

So often I feel like I don’t know what to say, or I get stuck and I think “God, I know there has to be another question, but I’m fumbling here.” I would just encourage you, pray.

I’ve tried asking connected questions in the past, listening to people’s answers and attempting a follow-up question to build on what they said, but I get stuck a lot. Even in casual conversations, I can’t think of good questions to show an interest and go deeper in the topic. But I’m not sure I ever prayed about what to ask. I’ll be praying a lot more about my upcoming conversations.

My last thought (okay, I failed at keeping this to two ideas), is that Vince’s closing comment was an incredible blessing.

As Jo said, pray like crazy, and the Holy Spirit will do all sorts of things even when you get it wrong.

I am so thankful none of this rests on my shoulders.

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Hi Olivia

It was a blessing to hear the advice from such experienced speakers who want to honour Jesus through loving the questioner. I appreciated Jo’s advice about looking for the good in other peoples views. It can be so easy to be talking with a non-Christian and want to immediately look for arguments to try and defeat their view. Checking our hearts is such an important starting point before even commencing the conversation. As Jo and Vince were saying, are we actually invested in the person because we care about them, regardless of the outcome? For me, a way to love questioners well is being genuine with them. When we try to appear to have all the answers, or look smart, or talk down to people, it can come from a place of insecurity because we feel our worldview or identity is being challenged. Being genuine with others means that it is easier to be honest and humble when we don’t know what to say or ask. It means we are giving the person our true self and not a false facade. I think, as Vince commented, it would allow for an interaction which helps the people involved to explore the question together.

One thing that comes to mind from Jesus’ example, is that it is okay to disagree and still remain loving and kind. Jesus didn’t compromise on the truth, but the way he displayed the truth was a way that drew many people to follow Him. It also made many of the religious leaders despise Him because of their hardness of heart. It can sometimes be a mistake to think that if one of our conversations goes badly, that it was because we failed in some way. Sometimes people might hate us and want to “crucify us,” not because we did anything wrong, but because we did everything right. It is why seeking God’s counsel is so vital for discerning that we are walking and remaining in His Will. We are in desperate and perpetual need of the Holy Spirit to help us.

I think in future conversations I want to be somebody who wants to invest time and resources in the other persons life. In other words, be more loving :slightly_smiling_face:. I have found apologetics ministry to be a long process as it is not primarily about giving an answer to the questioner, but loving the person as Jesus would love them. This always requires sacrifice in some way. It is why we need Jesus in every conversation to help us and mould us to become more like Him.

Thank you for sharing such an interesting interview. I look forward to reading others thoughts.

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@Brian_Upsher, thanks for your insight. I needed your gracious reminder to be genuine. I often feel vulnerable, and I try to hide those vulnerabilities out of fear. Your comments make me think of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV).

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

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Hi @Jennifer_Wilkinson
That is a great passage of scripture to reflect on- thanks for sharing :slightly_smiling_face:. I know one of my biggest struggles when starting out in apologetics was being scared that I wouldn’t know how to answer somebodies objections. It can be a freezing feeling that prevents conversations from even starting. But knowing it is God who saves, and that His grace is sufficient in my weaknesses and perceived strengths, has led to far more freedom, humilty and honesty in the varying conversations. I think it also allows those we speak with to be more honest and vulnerable in expressing their true concerns and desires.

Praise God that He works in us, and in His grace, honours us, by allowing us to serve with Him in His mission.

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How can we love questioners well?

This simple question lays bare my heart toward people asking questions, which leads me to ask myself: Do I really view others as made in the image of God? I mean, really view them that way? If I’m honest with myself, not always! This gracious recurring theme to love others first that runs throughout RZIM’s apologetics is wonderfully challenging because it constantly reminds me to check my heart attitude first before responding to a question.

Vince and Jo Vitale offered several pointers I find helpful in orienting myself this way to a questioner:

  • Don’t treat someone like a project, getting them from A to B, but with love.
  • Invest in someone as a person, helping usher them into a relationship with Christ.
  • Paint a portrait of who Jesus is.
  • What is the heart issue behind the question?

I think trying to understand someone’s heart issue behind a question is key to developing a relationship of mutual trust. I haven’t gotten as good at this as I’d like. I am working on becoming a better listener and not just waiting to speak while someone’s talking, forming points and canned answers, as Jo pointed out.

How can we follow Jesus’ example in how we respond to objections to Christianity?

Vince made some very good points for practice in doing this, first, by reminding us of how Jesus used parables in Mark 4. The key points for me are:

  • What are people hearing me say? Is it helpful, truthful, edifying?
  • Do I use the best words for the context of the question?
  • Honor people for their questions, strengthen them in the asking.
  • Look for the good in another’s views, even if they conflict with my own; find common ground and work from there.

I really like what Jo said about this last point: the deeper our discussion goes, the easier it is for Jesus to walk into.

Vince also made clear a most useful linkage regarding questions: Hear the question , see the concern contained in it, and identify the desire that lies at the root of the question.

All of these points will certainly change my approach to the next conversation I have about objections to Christianity.

Thank you, Olivia, for posting the podcast and questions. And thank you, Jennifer and Brian, for your encouraging insights.

Mark

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@MarkM, thank you for your wonderful summary of the main points of the podcast. As I work to apply these concepts in my conversations, I’ll be coming back here to review your summary.

I’ve been thinking about how to incorporate these ideas on Connect. Sometimes we discuss doctrinal or social issues on which we disagree. I love that part of Connect–we can be iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17). Am I as careful to affirm the good thoughts and desires of my brothers and sisters in Christ as I am to affirm my non-Christian friends?

My greatest difficulty on Connect is in finding ways to keep my posts focused and concise. I want to affirm others and enter the conversation on a point of agreement, but I also want to save space in my post for specific details from Scripture that cause me to see the topic from a different angle.

Does anyone have advice on how to balance these things in a relatively short post? If you see a post on Connect that exemplifies these ideas, would you share the link with us here?

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