How can I place myself into positions to have conversations with sceptics?
Hi there, @Daren! With regard to your question, what immediately came to mind was to begin to intentionally engage with people who don’t believe like you do; look like you do; have the same background as you, etc. And by ‘engage’, I mean to genuinely take interest in and appropriately involve yourself into the lives of your (as Scripture refers) “neighbors”.
Also for clarity sake…what reason would you want to have conversations with skeptics? Would it be for debate? Would it be to listen and learn about what they believe and why they believe it so that you may understand and possibly serve them better? Is it for evangelism? I think your motivations for entering into conversations would definitely shape how you engage.
I hope that helps some, man. Take care!
Darren L McClellan I think that what Warner explained to you about knowing and understanding or recognizing your own motives and intentions at the outset is the first step to engaging with the sceptic in any capacity. If our purpose is simply to win an argument by systematically refuting theirs we have missed the point entirely.
It doesn’t matter much at that point how logically sound or philosophically correct our arguments are because all we have essentially done is crush not only the sceptics argument but have also bruised the sceptics ego and made him or her feel inferior or inadequate in their mental capacity to engage in such discussions which often leads them even further into scepticism with the belief that they do not possess the ability or desire to know or understand such things.
But there are different types of sceptics and forms of scepticism and not all are engaged in a healthy or I guess I should say rational form of scepticism as your more average general questioner truly seeking truth and evidence to support that truth may be.
I personally approach it systematically while allowing room for adjustments in my method and approach depending on the person I’m speaking with and the specific questions they are asking and assertions they make about what they believe and why they believe in that way.
1.) I pray silently in my head and ask God to help me listen to the person attentively and not cut them off in the middle of the question or argument just because I think I already know how to respond or think I can finish their sentence for them by making a rational inference based upon what they’ve said already up to that point.
I also pray for God to help me articulate my response in a respectful tone that doesn’t promote arrogance or create hostility between me and the skeptic just because we disagree with one another and each hold to our own individual perspective of what we think is true or false. You want to have a conversation that is effective, meaningful, and persuasive. Hostility and arrogance or just simply telling them that they are wrong and you are right kills any chance for the conversation to move forward in a productive and influential way.
And finally I simply pray for the Holy Spirit to come and regenerate this person as I speak with them. It is God who saves! Philosophical arguments, sound logic and reasoning, theological debates, scientific facts, apologetics, or experiential type arguments DO NOT SAVE PEOPLE PERIOD END OF STORY!!! It is the work of God and God ALONE!!! So understanding that I then move to my second step in the process.
2.) Ask questions! I am talking to a REAL PERSON! I am not a GOOGLE Search Engine that the skeptic just types a question into and I come back with with bare facts and information that has no relational quality to it but that just addresses the question and not the questioner. RZIM does a great job of addressing that critical issue emphatically. I actually learned that from Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale from watching some of their lectures and Q & A Sessions on you tube and RZIM.Org.
It’s important to remember that there is a person behind the question with real feelings, emotions, passions, beliefs, and desires. I personally attempt to get to know the questioner more before attempting to answer their question outright so that I can try to evaluate their personality type, charecter qualities, education level, communication and comprehension skills, and the intent behind the particular assertions they are making or questions they are asking.
You can’t always necessarily be able to acquire all that information in just a 5 or 10 minute conversation in passing but the more you learn to question the questioner and the more you engage with different personality types with certain charecter qualities and attributes you will become much quicker and efficient at making those types of rational inferences on the fly and learn to communicate with each individual you encounter in a personal way that relates specifically to them rather than just being equipped with a preprogrammed universal response that you give using the same formula and expressions that you use with everyone else.
As Ravi and Vince say, “People need answers, not questions.” This is honestly a skill that I believe is never perfected but that is always being refined on a daily basis as you learn from experience and encounter a multitude of various types of people.
3.) “KNOW YOUR STUFF!” If you don’t know how to answer or refute something a skeptic says to you then simply tell them “I don’t know”. Then do the studying and research that is necessary to acquire that knowledge and be prepared to answer the next time that particular issue comes up. That type of humility I have found can actually create more mutual respect between you and the questioner than just making up your own explanation to try and hide the fact that you don’t actually have a sufficient reasoned response backed by some line of evidence that is objectively verifiable.
There is a difference between wanting to be right just to be right and wanting to be right because you have good evidence to believe your answer is the right one and have a genuine interest and concern in helping others see why you belive the way you do so you can help them to understand and ultimately come to faith in Jesus Christ once you’ve helped them remove those roadblocks that hinder them from seeing and hearing the gospel quickly. There is more I would like to list for you that I personally use and have found to be very effective at engaging with the skeptic but I think this is a good starting method that could help you at this difficult task. Hope this helps and I’m sure your gonna get greater advice than this from people on here that are way smarter than me so God Bless You and keep engaging with as many people as possible. It is how you grow and learn but most of all it is how you lead them to Christ.