Engaging Culture

How To Answer Tough – Even Angry – Questions About Your Faith

More and more people like the “New Atheists” are not only dismissive of religious faith, but they’re angry about it, to the point of declaring that belief in a Supreme being must be a sign of mental illness. In that increasingly hostile atmosphere, it’s becoming more and more challenging to respond when asked about our faith. David French, writing in the National Review, said recently:

“From my own life in places like Harvard, Cornell, Manhattan, and Center City Philadelphia, I’ve been struck by the extent to which otherwise reasonable-sounding secularists are consumed by rage and hate at the very thought of orthodox religious belief. You can have a perfectly civil conversation about, say, Putin’s Russia, but bring up Jesus and all bets are off. And professors can be among the worst. In fact, their outright bigotry against Evangelicals is well-documented. It’s bigotry for the sake of tolerance, hate for the sake of love, and divisiveness for the sake of unity, and all the while the angry atheist mind sees no contradiction at all.”

In an interview for World Magazine (August 8, 2015), John Stonestreet had some advice about engaging people who ask tough questions about our faith:

“How can churches do a better job in preparing young people to deal with tough cultural questions? A lot of times we teach the Bible, particularly at a very early age, as if it’s a random collection of stories and sayings, but not as the grand underlying narrative of everything. At the heart of a lot of our troubles is that many teenagers and young adults believe in what Christian Smith, now at Notre Dame, calls moralistic therapeutic deism: They invite God into our world when they need to behave or feel better about ourselves. Maybe that’s because from their earliest age, from Sunday school lessons and youth group lessons, almost every way they’ve heard the Bible taught is moralistic or therapeutic. David and Goliath, here’s how you beat your giants.

How can we do a better job of talking with non-Christians about difficult subjects? My friend Frank recommends that before getting into a testy situation we ask, “Do you consider yourself an open-minded and tolerant person? Are you open to considering other views? Because a lot of people aren’t, and if you’re not then we probably shouldn’t have this conversation.” And if someone says, “Yes,” you can say, “Well good, because I sense my view might be different from yours.” We need some groundwork if we are to listen to one another and respect each other.”

Perhaps establishing those boundaries up front will save you misunderstanding and confrontation later.  What do you think about John’s advice?

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9 Comments

  1. Personal testimony moves the conversation beyond differing viewpoints and into personal experience. People can argue with my viewpoint, but they can’t argue with my experience. I was there and they weren’t.

      1. This is where the post-modern thinking approach our culture is currently trapped in can help us, since by that reasoning, “truth is relative,” our viewpoint should be considered just as valid as anyone else. The Christian has an equal spot at the table of discussion, and we should not be castigated…

  2. Great advice, and important to remind people our opinion needs to be considered for true tolerance. This is helpful in an age where people, including many politicians, want to sequester all religious talk from the public square instead of realizing that it is a worldview that informs all of our lives.

    Thanks for sharing, Phil.

  3. It’s the right thing to say/do. Ultimately I don’t think it will help all that much because people always consider themselves “open-minded” but really aren’t.

  4. Good advice. People who are completely close-minded and militaristic in their political and religious views (or lack thereof), aren’t going to change their minds short of a miracle. It’s like trying to open the hearts of a KKK member.

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