Lately I’ve realised that whenever I’m in discussion about Christianity, I’m left at a loss, as there is often an unpreparedness to answer their questions. Now, whilst this dilemma can be sorted out through training, there’s still the problem of my ego getting the best of me, where I immediately assume the stance that “I’m right, their wrong”, most especially when they come up to my faith with faulty assumptions. Could anyone give any tips to solve this problem?
@AlphaOmega I think three things that help me are to remember:
My identity in Christ
I am not better than anyone else. It is the mercy and love of Jesus that saved me. Without Christ, I would be just as confused as they are - no matter how intelligent. It is God’s mercy that gives us a right view - not our own intelligence or ability. If I remember God’s tremendous grace in my life, then that helps me not to be proud because every gift I have comes from God.
Titus 3:3-7 - At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
My goal in sharing my faith
Am I trying to win an argument or save a soul? Am I trying to boost my own ego or humble myself to serve another? Am I building my Kingdom or trying to set others free from bondage to the kingdom of darkness that they might dwell in the Kingdom of Light? Am I a debater or a healer?
I think when we remember our goal is to lay down our lives and our pride that others might come to know Jesus, that helps a lot. These people are captives to the evil one and it is our goal to speak of the love and mercy of Jesus that can set them free from bondage. We are chain breakers - speaking love to the lowly and the outcast and demonstrating God’s humility and love to the proud / angry.
2 Timothy 2:24-26 - And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
Guard my own walk with Christ - walk in the Spirit
I think if we are walking in the Spirit - living a life of obedience, prayer and pursuit of Jesus - it is much harder for that pride to get a hold of our hearts.
Galatians 5:22-26 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Hope that is helpful. The Lord Jesus bless you as you grow in grace and knowledge of Him.
Great question, @AlphaOmega and very well stated! I appreciate your candor. Correspondingly, this bit that @SeanO shared held especially true for me as a gauge and guardrail of sorts when engaging in apologetic dialogue, debate and evangelism:
“Am I trying to win an argument or save a soul? Am I trying to boost my own ego or humble myself to serve another?” […] debater or healer?" That truly keeps me in check. It keeps me honest. It keeps me more willing to say “I don’t know” to a question I don’t have an accurate response to rather than giving an inaccurate, thoughtless answer that may potentially lose my credibility, trustworthiness and witness. There’s actually (and ironically) a power and freedom in admitting that you don’t know BUT will find out the answer. It’s a teachable moment that humbles you as well as bringing focus back to the One Who empowers you and enables you to do what you do for Him.
I would also make this point (and I’m sure I’m only stating what you already know): as much as I love and appreciate the practice of good, Christian apologetics, I 1000% concede that no one has ever been won to Jesus Christ through an argument. No matter how well-stated, communicated and articulated, a good argument can, at best, serve to put doubt in the mind of the opposing view. In can act as the proverbial pebble in the shoe persuading others to rethink their own beliefs and possibly investigate further into yours. But insofar as someone being saved by a great argument goes…that’s a ‘no’. I’m grateful for that, actually. If someone could be persuaded to relationship with Christ from a great argument then that’d also mean that they could be persuaded away by an even better argument! I’m so glad that that pressure is not on you are I. One plants; another one waters but God gives the growth. (1 Cor. 3:6)
Lastly, I remember what Ravi Zacharias said with regard to what he looks for most pertaining to new, potential hires for RZIM’s speaking team. It isn’t competence or education, although they ARE important. Not eloquence or extensive oratorical skill although they CAN DEFINITELY come in handy. Not even complete, doctrinal similitude although like-mindedness IS imperative. He said that the first thing he looks for in a potential hire is HUMILITY. Similarly, one of the other tutors (professors) seconded what Mr. Zacharias said by stating a few days later that when instructing men and women on how to engage as apologists, we - as the students - are given tools to engage in healthy, effective debate; to ask questions in order to unpack (and sometimes) disassemble faulty arguments and worldviews AND to think critically – operating many times as sociologists, psychologists, theologians and pastors ALL AT THE SAME TIME. All of those skills placed in the wrong hands – in prideful, unloving, uncaring, unsympathetic or empathetic, egotistical hands – can be dangerous. Dangerous not only for the person on the opposing end but also for the Body of believers who they may influence. It’s dangerous for the believers who may now, because of the person’s misuse of apologetic discourse, reject the need for Christian apologetics. I don’t believe that I’m overstating it when I say that humility with regard to Christian apologetics is paramount.
I can completely relate to that. I come across things like that a lot especially when you live in a nation where Christianity is seen as a religion of those that are downcast and brainwashed of the society. I used to get heated up during my initial period when I had started learning the objectivity and the intellectual factors to the Gospel whenever i had the opportunity to share my about my faith.
Gradually I learnt that doing debates, studying the Bible and whatever it is , it is to serve people because People are important and they are important because God loves them. I mean we can win an argument but lose the person and there will be no point. I really echo all that @SeanO just mentioned above.
When Dr. Ravi was here in Nepal sharing with us the four pillars of life, one thing that he had stated was accountability. " Hold onto to your conviction without fear but share it with grace and humility because we are accountable.’’
Also I want to be careful myself even as I progress and learn a lot of things, that no matter how much knowledge i amass in my lifetime it would still be partial and never complete as it says in the Bible.
1 corinthians 13:9-13
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
@AlphaOmega, thank you so much for sharing this great question which we are all always dealing with whether we are in an evangelical conversation or not. Some great answers have already been provided. I just want to expand on what has been shared with a few practical steps that I have found helpful. ( Eph 4:17 - Eph 5:2 )
Pray for the attitude of my own heart and seek forgiveness so that I identify myself with truths in the Bible and bring myself under Jesus’s authority rather than identifying with the words spoken, pride, fear or anger I feel at that moment.
Pray for the one listening: Compassion doesnt always come to us especially when we dont understand why others behave the way they do. When I have prayed for others who are really difficult for me to understand, it raised compassion within me for them. Just remembering that we are all a by-product of the attention and information we have been exposed to helps. Maintaining an attitude of forgiveness whether the felt accusation is justified or not stops us from trying to be too focused on the argument.
Being open that my role may be small, just planting a seed, and not complete change of mind or understanding of my perspective. It takes several exposures to the same truth before people understand and change their mind. When I think of my own self, I know God has been patient in dealing with my own stubbornness to change for a long time in many areas. When someone rejects the truth, we can be encouraged that they did some thinking about it and they may ponder on it later.
We also need to pray for wisdom to know if we are discussing the questions that are true obstacles to the one listening. Sometimes there may be other ways to reach the person than answering the question.
I am still learning how to live these out. I think we fail many times in the process but that also teaches us to know that our strength is in the Lord.
God bless all your efforts in understanding the gospel and making it known.
Thank you all so much for this great advice. I feel better knowing that there are those out there who understand my plight.
God bless you all,