HOW COULD ANYONE BELIEVE. . .?
D. L. Cranfield
Common Ground seeks to encourage believers to develop areas of common interest with those who have not experienced salvation through Christ.
While dining at a restaurant with some coworkers, someone begins to criticize Christianity.
It’s founded on myths and legends, he says. Just look at some of the stories in the Bible. Men get swallowed by whales, demons are cast into pigs, and people rise from the dead. In an enlightened scientific age, how could anyone believe it?
How would you feel in that situation? Would you feel threatened and perhaps a little fearful? How would you respond?
Peter understood those feelings. In 1 Peter 3:14-15 he said: “…do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify
Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to every one who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…” How can we maintain a gentle
attitude when someone criticizes the truth on which our faith rests? Here are several suggestions.
FIRST, express your feelings to God.
When you face an objection, several things may surface: 1) You may feel a jealous anger to defend the Christ you love; 2) You may want to respond because you don’t want to look foolish; 3) You may feel shame because you don’t know the answer. Whatever you feel, silently express it to God. This defuses the crippling power of those feelings.
SECOND, recognize the benefits of the objection.
Objections can be helpful. 1) Hearing an objection lets you know what your friend believes and helps you pray more specifically; 2) Considering an objection may drive you to study so you can share your faith more effectively; 3) Handling an objection allows you to show Christ’s character of grace and truth.
THIRD, take steps to answer the objection.
If you don’t know the answer, find a book that has the answer. Consider giving the book to the friend that raised the objection. Offer to get together with him and discuss it. Above all, be honest. Friends are
often more willing to listen and examine their objections when they sense honesty in our response.
Tom Hopkins, in his best-selling book, How To Master the Art of Selling, outlines a helpful system for handling objections. These pointers may help you in handling objections to Christianity, even when you don’t have all the answers.
FIRST, DON’T ARGUE AND DON’T ATTACK.
Paul said to answer objections gently (2 Tim. 2:25). Attacking puts people on the defensive. Your friends may think, “Better not bring up religion with Joe. He gets pretty uptight when I do.” If we argue and
attack, we’ve lost sight of the fact that evangelism is a process and God is responsible for the results. We can win an argument and lose an opportunity to share Christ, or worse, lose a friend.
SECOND, HELP THEM ANSWER THEIR OWN OBJECTION.
Hear them out. Let your friend go through the entire objection; don’t interrupt. When you listen intently, your friend feels understood and he is more likely to listen to you. But be careful about giving off non-verbal signals that halt open dialog. We do this when we fold our arms in a defensive manner, shake our head, or smile in a condescending way.
Feed the objection back. You can feed it back with something like this: “Let me see if I understand what you’re saying. You feel that a lot of bad things have been done in Christ’s name. And you see lots of
hypocrites in the church. So you feel that all this hypocrisy invalidates the Christian faith.” When you feed objections back, people feel they have been understood, and they feel freer to discuss them.
Question the objection. Ask them a question that will help them to consider alternatives. You might say, “I understand how you feel, but it seems to me that the misuse of Christianity doesn’t necessarily invalidate the truth of Christianity. What do you think?” By helping them consider alternatives, you stimulate them to search for answers to their objection.
Answer the Objection. When you answer, begin your answer tentatively. By doing this, you ease people into examining your answer. An example might be: “John, it seems to me that you agree with Jesus on hypocrisy. He reserved His strongest words for the religious hypocrites of His day. He also told His disciples how they could have faith without hypocrisy. If some people misapply the truths Christ taught, that doesn’t invalidate those truths.”
THIRD, OFFER TO GET BACK WITH THEM.
Most people won’t immediately accept your answer to their objection. Offer to give them a book or a tape that answers the objection. A good new book you can give them is Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith. Give
them some time, pray for opportunities, and then get back together and discuss it with them.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY COMMON GROUND, FEBRUARY 2001.
THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES